Refunds still pending for COVID-19 flight cancellations, frustrating consumers

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– Many airline travelers who had trips cancelled as a result of the pandemic are still trying to get their money back, and it has become a frustrating process. 

When the pandemic began impacting travel, an aircraft sitting idle with no passengers and no place to go became a common sight.

As flights were cancelled wholesale, many people who had booked trips that weren’t going to happen were offered credits or vouchers for future travel instead. But, with the pandemic also causing financial hardship for many, people wanted cash refunds. 

Wendy Foley is an air traveler who believes passengers are entitled to COVID-19 related refunds.

“I’d be very frustrated, because it’s my money and its not my fault that I had to cancel the airline ticket,” she said. 

In April, a class action lawsuit was filed against American Airlines, saying the carrier violated consumer protection laws by not refunding. 

The suit also cited a ruling by the US Department Of Transportation, saying “Airlines must refund  money to passengers whose flights were cancelled or delayed due to COVID-19”.

The lawsuit also cited the government’s $50 Billion in aid given to airlines by the government to keep them afloat in the form of $25 billion in loans and $25 billion in payroll support grants. 

Now, American Airlines is asking the suit be thrown out, saying passengers cancelled their own flights or in some cases, agreed to arbitration clauses when the purchased their tickets. 

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, some travelers said on Friday they think the airlines should still refund  because vouchers for future travel don’t cut it. 

“I understand the funds were committed and the airlines were counting on that,” said Heather Garrett. “But, for a lot of people they can’t repeat that trip.” 

Meanwhile, the office of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said complaints are piling up against both airlines and travel sites that have refused refunds.

“We have approximately 66 complaints against a variety of different travel sites and airlines,” said spokeswoman Laura Brewer. “They are all about cancellations of trips and flights where consumers are requesting refunds.” 

She said Stein’s office has also forwarded copies of those complaints to the FAA, because that agency has jurisdiction over the refund issue. 

If you received a voucher, the government says you are still legally entitled to a refund can still ask for it from the airline or travel service.  

You can also try going through your credit card company to see if they can help you fight the battle  for a refund under their disputed charge policy. 

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