Why won’t you refund my refundable ticket, Lufthansa? (It’s refundable, isn’t it?)

By | January 25th, 2017

At first glance, Siafa Sherman’s case should have been straightforward. According to Sherman, she paid for a refundable air ticket on Lufthansa, which she then canceled — and was due a refund.

But when both our forum staffers and regular advocacy team took a look at Sherman’s paperwork, they realized that Sherman’s ticket was not refundable — and Sherman was not happy to hear that.

Sherman’s case is a warning that even when canceling airline tickets within 24 hours of making a reservation, passengers may not be entitled to refunds — and need to closely read the terms and conditions of their tickets before committing to purchasing them.

So what went wrong in her case?

Sherman purchased a ticket from Washington Dulles Airport to Hamburg, Germany. She canceled her flight within 24 hours of purchasing the ticket and then made a claim for a refund.

Here’s Sherman’s description of what happened next:

I cancelled my Lufthansa flight several months ago, but the airline refuses to provide a full refund or credit. I’ve received a partial refund ($137 in taxes) but the airline refuses to refund or credit the entire ticket ($1,269).

After disputing the charges via my credit card company (American Express), I was informed that I purchased a nonrefundable ticket (only refundable 24 hours after purchased). However, I was unaware that the ticket was nonrefundable and I followed the cancellation policy on Lufthansa’s website (refundable up to 24 hours before departure).

After I mentioned the cancellation policy webpage to American Express and Lufthansa, the airline changed it; luckily I saved screenshots. American Express is siding with Lufthansa’s claim that I was informed of the nonrefundability (which I do not recall). Even if that’s the case, the policy wasn’t consistent across the website. I contacted the DOT [Department of Transportation] and they filed a complaint; however, they can’t enforce refunds and/or credits.

So Sherman claims that she believed that she purchased a refundable ticket, and that Lufthansa failed to adequately disclose its nonrefundability before she completed the purchase. She adds that her booking confirmation did not include the terms of cancellation or refundability. Although she attempted to upload the screenshots of her flight confirmation to the forum, she was unable to do so.

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Further into the forum thread, Sherman maintains that Lufthansa changed the information in the online screens to reflect what she claims is the changed nature of the ticket. She also insists that Lufthansa changed the language on its website regarding the refundability of tickets following cancellations.

If this doesn’t make any sense to you, then you’re in good company with our forum staffers, who advised Sherman to write a nice letter to Lufthansa’s customer service department and upper-level executives asking for a refund of her airfares — but that she has no legal right to expect a refund for a nonrefundable ticket. (Executive contact information for Lufthansa can be found on our website.)

Sherman told the forum that she wrote to Lufthansa, which refused to issue her the refund, and that she plans to take legal action against the airline. Then she contacted our advocates for help.

Lufthansa’s general conditions of carriage contain the following language about the refundability of airfares:

Voluntary Refunds
If you request a refund …, the amount of the refund will thus correspond provided the respective fare conditions provide for this:

… if no portion of the Ticket has been used, an amount equal to the fare paid, less any reasonable service charges or cancellation fees;

Refund to Credit Cards Accounts

Refund due to tickets paid for with credit cards can only be credited to credit card accounts originally used for the ticket purchase. The refundable amount to be paid by us will be in accordance with the rules within this article only on the basis of the amount and the currency entered in the ticket. The refundable amount to be credited to the credit card account of the card owner can vary from the originally debited amount by the credit card company for the ticket due to differences in conversion. Such variances do not entitle the recipient of the refund to a claim against us.

This language assumes that the airfare was refundable. And Lufthansa’s general conditions of carriage contain no suggestions of refundability of airfares within a 24-hour window for cancellation.

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Despite Sherman’s claim that Lufthansa changed the terms of her booking subsequent to her receiving confirmation of the reservation, we think it is highly unlikely that Lufthansa changed these conditions or the terms of Sherman’s booking at any time subsequent to her making her original reservation. And since she claims she has retained an attorney and is taking legal action against Lufthansa, her case, assuming she has one, is outside our advocates’ ability to help her secure a full refund of her airfare.

Our advocates have decided not to take this case.

Update (7/3): Sherman has reported that she has “won” her case against Lufthansa and wants us to remove this article. We do not remove articles.

  • Alan Gore

    Why doesn’t the 24-hour rule cover this case?

  • Bill___A

    I have purchased Lufthansa tickets a few times over the years, including a few months ago. Their website is, from what I have seen, exceptionally explicit about stating which tickets are refundable, changeable, etc. and by how much. It is unfortunate that the op lost some money but I don’t see Lufthansa at fault here.

  • BubbaJoe123

    This statement… “She canceled her flight within 24 hours of purchasing the ticket and then made a claim for a refund.”

    …conflicts with the quote from Sherman, where she says “However, I was unaware that the ticket was nonrefundable and I followed the cancellation policy on Lufthansa’s website (refundable up to 24 hours before departure).”

    If she did cancel less than 24 hours after booking the ticket, then she should get a refund. From the quote, however, it sounds like she tried to cancel more than 24 hours prior to departure, which is an entirely different kettle of fish.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Two possibilities:

    1. Sherman misread the Lufthansa website when she booked her ticket.
    2. Lufthansa is engaged in a massive conspiracy to deny her the refund she’s owed.

    Occam’s Razor votes for #1.

  • Kathi C

    I completely agree!

  • sirwired

    This case actually has nothing to do with the 24-hour rule; that’s a mistake in the article. Instead, she thought she bought a refundable ticket, but didn’t. That’s really all there is to it.

  • sirwired

    If you look at the forum thread, it’s the latter. This case has nothing to do with the 24-hour rule.

  • C Schwartz

    Please revise this article. I had to look at the forum for the information.

    This is not a case of Lufthansa refusing to refund a ticket within 24 hours of purchase. That is not when the cancellation occurred. The cancellation occurred well after the purchase, more than 24 hours after purchase.

    Lufthansa states the following on their website:

    “If your travel plans have changed and you want to cancel your booking
    and get your ticket refunded, an online refund function is available for
    this purpose. This enables you to cancel flight bookings* quickly and
    easily up to 24 hours before the start of your journey.”

    The OP thought that this implied that all fares were fully refundable up to 24 hours before departure no matter what the fare and did not take into consideration the fare conditions. The OP never posted the fare conditions or fare codes for the reservation

    I just checked the prices for some dates in February. The lowest cost is for a not refundable trip is slightly less than $900 r/t — the lowest price for a refundable fare (minus $300) is around $2,600 r/t.
    I would suspect that the OP had a non refundable ticket.

  • Jim

    I’m confused, but take them to small claims court, they won’t show up, you win a judgment, and then call me when you get the local sheriffs to seize it for you so I can watch!

    I’ll buy a 24 hour refundable ticket to get past security to watch from the terminal.

  • Carrie Livingston

    You’d just go to whoever their agent is at the airport.

  • IGoEverywhere

    It appears to me that Sherman must be a real novice when it comes to purchasing airline tickets. Her statements are more than conflicting. (refundable up to 24 hours before departure). Never! You have mentioned dozens of times, that if you do no want surprises and are not “exactly” sure of what you are seeing, (Sherman surely sounds confused) then use a travel agent!

    1) We know the rules and would have explained 24 hour refund, non-refundable, and fully refundable.

    2) Most of us use a GDS to issue tickets and we can void the ticket within the 24 hour period and all is right again. Our office would retain the original ticketing fee. There is no arguing with the airline or waiting for a refund that is going to go through with every reason not to give you your money back.

    3)We talk to you face to face. Don’t be too busy or have too many excuses to get it done correctly. We use special software and you may have even save a few dollars after the fee. If there is a screw-up, then we are responsible.

  • jim6555

    Also, the 24 hour rule applies only if the ticket was purchased more than 7 days from the date of the flight. We don’t know how close to the flight date the ticket was purchased.

  • cscasi

    Remember, the 24 hour window on refunds when you purchase a ticket only applies to tickets purchased for flights at least seven days out.

  • Blamona

    A big company is going to change it’s wording every time someone has a conflict? No lawyer needed, maybe a doctor? (sorry I’m snarky today, but can’t upload her screenshots? Too much conspiracy)

  • pauletteb

    That would be an abuse of small claims court. She has no case in ANY court.

  • Jim

    Unless they don’t show up!

  • PsyGuy

    Agreed, they won’t show up with counsel for that amount.

  • PsyGuy

    Sure she has a case, she just doesn’t have evidence or a very strong case.

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