OGDEN — It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted thousands of travelers to cancel flights.
But imagine being told that you have to pay a fee if you want a refund.
It happened to Bud Strayhorn. He and his wife had booked two roundtrip tickets to see London this summer for their 30th anniversary.
“Of course, when the coronavirus hit, we had to just cancel out,” said Strayhorn. “It’s been several months now that we have been trying to get a reimbursement back on our airline tickets.”
The Strayhorns had booked their tickets through an online travel agency, Justairticket.com. He said the trouble is the agency demanded he send them an additional $250 per ticket for taxes and commission, and then they will refund his plane tickets.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you take out $250 out of the $1,825 that you owe me?’” Strayhorn explained. “’Well, we can’t do that.’ ‘So, why can’t you do that? You’re holding my money.’”
Pay more money for the privilege of a refund — can that be right?
Looking at Justairticket.com’s own refund policy, it said customers with refundable tickets “will receive a refund of the total amount in your original form of payment or in the form of a travel voucher from the airlines.”
The same policy does go on to say that sometimes canceling will “incur penalties” from the airlines. But there is no language saying customers are required to pay an additional $250 per ticket to get a refund from Justairticket.com.
So, this time the KSL Investigators reached out to Justairticket.com on the Strayhorns’ behalf, pointing out the language in their own refund policy. We did not hear back from the travel agency, but just a couple days later the Strayhorns told us they received a full refund for their tickets.
I said, ‘Why don’t you take out $250 out of the $1,825 that you owe me?’ Well, we can’t do that.’
In April, the U.S. Department of Transportation reiterated its refund rules saying airlines must offer refunds for the whole ticket price, plus any optional fee for a service the flyer did not use for flights canceled by the airline. Significantly delayed flights must also be fully refunded if the flyer chooses not to accept an alternative schedule offered by the airline.
You should know that those rules do not apply if you cancel your flight, rather than the airline canceling it. Plus, non-refundable airfares are still non-refundable.
However, Congress is currently mulling over what’s called the Coronavirus Cancellations Act. If passed, it would require major airlines, online travel agencies and other third-party ticket sellers to offer full cash refunds for all flights canceled during the pandemic either by the airlines or by the passenger.
Any flight canceled after March 1 would fall under the proposed protection. So, if you received a travel voucher and did not use it, you can ask for a cash refund instead.