Hey, how about a refund for that airline fee?

Here’s a question that’s been on my mind — and maybe yours, too — since the revelation that airlines collected a
record $27 billion in fees last year
, a staggering 19.6 percent increase from 2011: Do they ever offer to refund those extra charges?

They’re required to under certain conditions. For example, if you paid $25 for your first checked bag, and the airline lost your luggage, the government now mandates that the airline refund the fee.

How generous of the airlines.

But what about other circumstances? Like, say, the one affecting Emanuel Feldman’s flight from Tel Aviv to Atlanta last December?

“After paying for this reservation, I realized I needed to stop in Baltimore for several hours,” he remembers. So he changed his reservation to allow a brief stopover in Baltimore, paying US Airways an extra $200 for the privilege.

But it wasn’t meant to be. His flight from Philadelphia to Baltimore was canceled, and US Airways rebooked him on a nonstop flight to his final destination.

Feldman wondered if he could get his $200 back. After all, he never stopped in Baltimore. Shouldn’t US Airways refund the fee?

“I wrote to the US Airways office in Phoenix in January and was told they are working on it,” he told me. “Having heard nothing by February, I wrote them again. No reply. I wrote again in April and again in May, this time to the CEO. Still no reply.”

The refund is due

To me, this case looked like a slam dunk. Feldman paid for something he didn’t get. It didn’t matter what the fare rules on his ticket said, and it didn’t matter what fine print the airline inserted in its contract.

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I asked him to send me the written correspondence with the airline. He did, and it showed the letters from Feldman were unfailingly polite, but were met with form responses by US Airways. The airline promised him a refund as early as December, but six months later — nothing!

Based on what I saw, I thought a prompt refund was due. Even though I had a few questions about his reservations — did he cancel the ticket and rebook, or simply pay a change fee and any fare differential? — I couldn’t envision a scenario under which US Airways could keep Feldman’s money.

This case also raised two larger questions: First, under what circumstances should fees be refundable to air travelers? And second, are airlines making it too difficult to get these deserved refunds?

A long, long wait

I contacted US Airways shortly after reviewing Feldman’s letters. Seeing its promise of a refund was enough. Even if for some reason he didn’t deserve to get his money back, US Airways had promised him in writing that it would return the $200. And it hadn’t.

When it comes to refunds, the government isn’t exactly our friend. Although it requires an airline to process a refund within seven business days, it allows for up to two credit card billing cycles to receive the money. That could take up to three months.

Feldman had been more than patient.

A few days after I reached out to US Airways in mid-June, he contacted me. He’d just received his credit card statement from May, which showed that the airline had processed his refund at last. Apparently, the money had been there all along (but alas, six months late).

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“Please note your own power,” he added. “The mere thought of getting a note from you induced them, even one month earlier, to do the right thing.”

Ah, if only.

As much as this is a story about the refundability of fees, it also illustrates something we’ve known for a long time. Airlines don’t like to return your money, even when they’re required to by law.

A six-month wait for a refund, by the way, isn’t a record. Here’s a refund that took one year. And here’s one that took nearly two years.

This also answers my second question. Are airlines making it too difficult to get these deserved refunds?

You tell me.

Under which circumstances should fees be refundable to air travelers? To that question, we still don’t have a clear answer. If you said, “When the service isn’t provided,” you’re wrong. For years, airlines pocketed your luggage fee even when they lost your bags, until the government stepped in. Try getting a refund on a reservation fee after a flight attendant asks you to move seats to accommodate a family, or a ticket change fee after your flight’s delayed, and you’ll find out what Feldman already knows: airlines would really prefer to keep all that tasty ancillary revenue.

The fix? We need to incentivize airlines to repay us quickly by tightening refund rules and adding harsh penalties for pocketing our money. And we need to figure out a way to dis-incentivize them from charging these often outrageous fees and then keeping them.

Perhaps an equally ridiculous new “fee” tax would do the trick?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • jpp42

    I realize this article isn’t exactly about if the traveler deserved a refund or not. But I’m curious what happened in the original situation – did he just decide not to go to Baltimore? Why did he accept this instead of asking to be re-booked back on an itinerary with a Baltimore stopover?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its hard for me to say. The few times I’ve requested a refund from America, it was back in my credit card in under a week. Is that normal or is six months normal. How do I know? One thing I hated with American though was that once you cancelled a ticket, you had to click additional buttons to process the refund. That makes no sense as related to a fully refundable ticket.

    The few times I’ve requested refunds from car rental companies and hotels, likewise, the money was returned in under a week.

  • I think more details are needed on this case. If the OP simply paid $200 to change his routing to include Baltimore (as a layover, not an officially stopover), then no, he doesn’t deserve a refund of the change fees (the airlines got him from point A to point B – Tel Aviv to Atlanta). For him to get a refund, he would’ve needed to buy two separate tickets and linked them together. The airlines probably thought they were doing him a favor by giving him a nonstop instead. But since they promised a refund, they should make good on their word, which I’m glad they finally did!

  • Cybrsk8r

    Umm, if you read the article, it says why he didn’t get to stop in Baltimore. At least in the article I read.

    “But it wasn’t meant to be. His flight from Philadelphia to Baltimore was
    canceled, and US Airways rebooked him on a nonstop flight to his final

    And it’s US Airways. Should anyone be surprised?

  • He never made it to Baltimore because of flight problems. He made it as far as Philadelphia.

  • Mark

    Why would anyone fly from Baltimore to Philadelphia anyway? It’s not even 100 miles and Amtrak will get you there faster for a lot less than $200. Not exactly relevant to the fee refund question, but it does sound like the traveler is not too concerned about wasting money.

  • crash025

    Its a shame that it requires the government to make the airlines more responsive to its own customers.

  • lost_in_travel

    Because he was likely stopping for a few hours to meet someone at the airport, then continuing on his way. I have done this sort of thing many times. It is less expensive in time and money to meet during a layover that appears to be a silly routing than to make a special trip. His ultimate destination was Atlanta.

  • Cybrsk8r

    “Try getting a refund on a reservation fee after a flight attendant asks you to move seats to accommodate a family,”

    See, I wouldn’t even try to get anything from the airline after the fact. If an FA asked me to give up my premium seat to accomodate a family, my response would be that said family will pay me, on the spot, in cash, whatever extra fee I paid for that seat, since I know the airline isn’t going to give me anything. Does that make me a bad person? No, just a smart one.

  • Raven_Altosk

    United now allows people to “upgrade” from Economy to Economy Plus on the aircraft once all PAX have boarded. The FAs will process credit cards for the difference in cost.

    I am not kidding.
    Witnessed it just this week on my favorite route. A family wanted to sit together in three unoccupied seats in Economy Plus. FA said, sure…for $39* each.

    The mother started raising holy hell and trying to play the “special needs child” card but the FA told her she already had two seats together in Economy and she might be able to switch with someone back there.

    *I don’t remember the exact price…but it was like $29 or $39

  • Carol

    You’ve been lucky. All refunds I process for my clients are not normally seen for 2-3 billing cycles. The airlines will charge you immediately when you purchase the ticket but it usually takes much longer for any refund to appear (this is on fully refundable tickets).

  • John Baker

    I really think this whole issue needs more study. There are a ton of areas in the airline industry where you pay more for one thing and they deliver another…
    For example…
    1. The opposite of the above case where you pay a premium for a non-stop and you get moved to a connection. Never seen a refund here.
    2. You pay for bags only to have them “delayed” for days. I’ve only ever heard of fees refunded for lost bags.
    3. The seat upgrade that disappears either with an equipment change or a gate agent / FA making a change.

  • jmtabb

    I’ve never flown from Baltimore to Philly, but I’ve done similar flights in other places, such as in Europe.

    I’ve done them because of timing – The connection between the train and the flight overseas was too tight, and the only way to make sure I made the flight was to go the night before, which didn’t work with my business schedule.

    Plus, if your flight from Baltimore to Philly gets messed up/cancelled and you miss the long flight overseas, it’s part of the ticket and the airline will re-route you.

    If Amtrak doesn’t get you there on time and you miss your flight overseas, the airline has no responsibility to accommodate you at all. You’ll have to pay for a new ticket.

  • Michael__K

    Well, if you’re going by the contract, sure. US Airways never owes any refunds on a non-refundable ticket unless they couldn’t deliver you to your endpoint destination or you die.

    You can pay extra for a “Choice Seat” and if you are involuntarily moved from that seat for operational reasons, you are not due any refund according to the contract for that either. Guess you should have read the contract before buying a “Choice Seat.”

  • Chris Johnson

    You can fly from Philly to Baltimore? That seems to make as much sense as flying from Washington to Charlottesville or Richmond, but no matter.
    In a nutshell, USAirways and many other airlines probably know full well when people are entitled to refunds but are “playing the odds” knowing that a certain percentage of customers will simply give up trying. I’m thinking that the only reason a class action lawsuit hasn’t been filed is that the defendant airline(s) would file bankruptcy in response, as is common practice in the airline world.

  • Amanda

    You can also make a complaint to the Department of Transport. I was bumped off by AA without compensation and after months of emails/letters heard nothing. When I made a complaint to DOT compensation was paid to me within a week!

  • Extra mail

    But, the airlines will find a way to charge a fee for an early refund!

  • Alan Gore

    The article plainly says that Feldman paid US Air an extra $200 for a stopover that, due to the cancellation of the Atlanta-Baltimore flight, it couldn’t provide. Therefore, he gets his fee back, without question. Whether he flew El Al on the Tel Aviv-Atlanta segment is irrelevant to the problem in Atlanta. And of course, the mere threat of Internet shaming caused them to disgorge the refund right away. There is no way US Air could “think they were doing hom a favor by giving him a nonstop” because he now had a booking that included the Baltimore stopover.

  • MarkKelling

    Like flight attendants don’t have enough to keep track of already. The UA FAs, especially those who were UA before the merger, can be very drill sergeant like when it comes to E+ seating. CO FAs not so much.

    Glad the FA stood her ground since the passenger was probably hoping for the seats to be empty and thought they could sneak in.

  • sirwired

    Hmmm… this case actually presents an interesting point. Does the CoC require the airline to put you on specific flights, or merely get you from your origin to your destination at something vaguely resembling the original schedule? I think the stops (or individual flights) are not part of your contract, just your net transit from origin to destination. When US put him on a non-stop, they probably thought they were doing him a favor…

  • MarkKelling

    I guess I have been lucky, but I have not yet had any issue with refunds through my entire flying life. But then most of the tickets I have bought over the years were refundable and I have not paid additional service fees that needed to be refunded. When CO was still around, I would often request a refund for a ticket when my plans changed and it would always be back on my card within 5 days. I chose the refund because it was easier than changing the flights and paying a change fee. I flew Southwest a lot and they also had the most generous policy where if you didn’t show up for your flight, the funds would automatically be available to use for another ticket in a few days after the end of your booked itinerary (but no more).

    Lately the refundable tickets are nearly impossible to afford so I just choose wisely when booking. The only times I have had to make a change in the past year has been when weather caused the airline to offer no charge changes or refunds on all tickets, even the non refundable ones. In both cases, the refund appeared within 3 business days.

    But yes, airlines should refund fees and everything else that they should be refunding quicker. Too bad it will take more government rules to make this happen.

  • MarkKelling

    I could see if he booked flights which gave him an overnight layover then he would have a better case for not wanting the direct flight, but I agree the airline most likely felt it was doing a good thing by getting him to his final destination with less stops.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Yea, my take on it is that his original trip was Tel Aviv – PHL- ATL, or Tel Aviv – ATL, and he re-arranged the segments for a short stop at BWI. so I guess his new itnierary was Tel Aviv – PHL-BWI-ATL. But when the PHL-BWI segment got canceled, the airline booked him directly from PHL to ATL. So no stop at BWI.

  • emanon256

    Every refund I have requested from United has been processed within a few days pretty consistently. But that was when flights were canceled or delayed and it made no sense to travel at all any more, so I requested a full refund.

    One time on the new United, I paid $160 to upgrade to first, and then the fligth got canceled and I was re-accommodated in a rear middle seat. The refund request was initially denied as they stated it was more expensive for a last minute coach ticket, than the cheap advanced upgrade I purchased. I continued to argue and as soon as I threatened to dispute the charge, they did refund me.

    Sadly, every time I have had to cancel with Frontier, it typically takes 4 to 6 months to get a refund. I often buy fully refundable fares on frontier as they are usually only $100 more R/T and come with free checked bags, stretch seating, etc. However, they never want to refund them, and I typically have to make multiple requests for several months before I actually get my refund.

    In the OPs case, I am a strong believer in that if a person pays to change a flight, and the airline puts them back on the original flight, they should get a refund of the change fee. However, I know the contract of carriage disagrees with my belief ion this issue.

  • emanon256

    I saw that on ORD-HNL, but it was something like $249 for Economy Plus on board. Of course, in the gate area, upgrades to First Class were offered for only only $300.

  • Helio

    The only time I need a refund was with Continental, 2 or 3 years ago. I had a GRU-EWR-TQB ticket, with 3 hours layover in Newark. CO canceled the original EWR-YQB leg and put me in another flight several hours later (I believe 6 or so – a total of 9 or 10 hours layover in EWR…).

    My travel agent was able to get a full refund for the whole trip with Continental, and he booked me in a direct flight via Air Canada for about the same amount ;-)

    (I didn’t use AC in the beginning because at that time their fare was about 20% more than CO)

  • Cyndy

    Ah, the increasing creep in fees. I would hope that businesses would return money promptly since it is the right thing to do — not because the government required them to do the right thing — but then again I am a Pollyanna type. A company should return a fee/charge as quickly as they require/take the money from the company. So if it takes them .06 second to take your money, it should be that quick to refund it. Having run a business, it is not all that difficult to issue a credit on a credit card.

    I am more angry about the inconsistency in some fees. I was VERY angry once when I paid to check my bag, and then the airline started checking bags at the gate for no cost since the flight was so full. I did the right thing and tried to help out the airline, but I paid $50 for it while the family that overpacked and wanted to carry everything on was rewarded for their bad behavior.

    I think if they gate check one person’s bag for free, then all other bag fees for that section of the airplane should be refunded.

    If a company doesn’t fulfill the contract — going to Baltimore, leaving on time (or reasonable delay), losing your bag — they should refund part of the cost of the flight or the bag fee. If you make me be 10 hours late, you owe me for that 10 hours. If I don’t have my bag because you lost it, you need to provide the money I need to get items that I no longer have.

    Once I had a poor lady on a Ireland trip who had no luggage for the entire trip. The airline gave her $50 to replace items — for a stay of 10 days.

  • Bill___A

    We’ll find out as I’ve just had to request a refund for a United Plus segment that wasn’t delivered upon.
    Previously, when this has happened, they have automatically refunded. However, this time, I had to do it manually Interestingly enough, they ask for a code. The problem is, I bought eight United Plus segments at once, paid eight separate fees, and they didn’t differentiate which one was for which segment – so I guessed.
    It isn’t a lot of money, but will see what happens. After all, I was flying to Florida – the money grubber state.

  • Mel65

    My daughter, a Marine, was on her way back to her base. I had paid $60 extra for a “premium” seat so she had a lil extra room and an aisle seat. Delta cancelled the flight (allegedly) due to weather and she ended up spending the night in the airport, no voucher no nothing since they “didn’t owe her a thing.” Bad enough, but she made it through, but the next day her new flight had her in a middle economy seat. No premium. No refund. According to them, they don’t owe her that either since it all sprang from a “weather event”. Sounds pretty crappy to me and I’m ready to go all “Mama Bear” on them, but I doubt it would do any good. On top of everything else, she was a day late returning from leave and had only hours to prepare to go on a field operation when she should have had a full day and a half. You can bet Delta is at the bottom of our list from now on!

  • MarkKelling

    Appearing on the monthly statement you receive from the credit card company and actually being credited to your account are two different things.

    In the days before the internet, there was no easy way to see if a credit was processed until you got your statement which is where this 2 -3 cycle window became the expected norm. For example, my airline card cycles tomorrow. If I request a refund today it will take the 5 business days it regularly does to get back to the card company. In the meantime, the statement will have been printed and mailed to me without the credit because it won’t make it in time to appear on this month’s statement. When I get the second month’s statement the credit will be there. This could make me believe it took two months to get the credit. But it only took 5 days and my available balance will reflect this. If it is actually taking 3 cycles, then something is wrong with the airlines you deal with. :-)

  • MarkKelling

    On some UA planes (the ones that were UA pre merger with CO), the E+ seating is more comfortable than the 1st, especially on the planes they use going to HNL.

    I got a laugh when checking something on the UA web site and ran across this: “Economy Plus cost varies depending on flight length and can be from $19 to $9,999.” No way ever am I paying $9,999 to sit in any economy seat!

  • LFH0

    You’ve brought up the first thing that came to my mind when I was reading the story. Was Baltimore a “connection” (what some people might call a “layover”), or was it truly a “stopover”? Generally speaking, and for domestic travel within the Untied States, an intermediate point is a connection if it is under 4 hours in duration or is the first departure from the intermediate point along an allowable routing towards the destination, whichever is later; an intermediate point is a stopover otherwise. Traditional tickets distinguish between connections and stopovers by using an “X” to denote a connection, and an “O” to denote a stopover.

    The distinction is more than semantic for at least two reasons, at least one of which is important here. An airline is obligated to transport a passenger from one point to the next point of stopover. It may do so either with direct or connecting flights, and it may change any intermediate stops without obligation or liability. Thus, if Baltimore were merely a connecting city, the carrier was within its rights to transport the passenger from Philadelphia to his next stopover: his final destination. The reasoning for this is that the purpose of the connecting city is merely to change airplanes, not to conduct business there. But if Baltimore were truly a stopover, then the carrier had the obligation to transport him there, and would be liable for not doing so. Given the typical casual use of the term “stopover,” it is not possible to determine which is the case from the facts provided.

    The distinction is also important because of the way tickets are priced. Generally, itineraries with connections cost no more than nonstop itineraries. That is, a through fare applies from origin to destination, and the stops made in route do not cost extra (we’re talking air fare here, not the taxes which might apply at intermediate stops). There is, in theory, the possibility that a through fare might permit a passenger to make a stopover at an intermediate point, but more typically an air fare involving a stopover is calculated by summing all of the local fares involved. That is, the air fare from the origin to the point of stopover plus the air fare from the point of stopover to the destination. In most cases the sum of the local fares is more expensive–sometimes much more expensive–that the through fare. (But in those few cases where the sum of the local fares is less expensive than the through fares, then the carriers start to howl that passengers are “abusing” the system if they were to book a ticket so priced!)

    In sum, if the passenger paid an extra $200 in order to reschedule specific flights, but in doing so simply booked ordinary “connecting” flights, he was at risk for losing the $200 by having the carrier eliminate the intermediate stopping point. In this case, the case the carrier would have gone beyond its duty to him by refunding the $200. On the other hand, if he truly booked a stopover, then the carrier was obligated to bring him to Baltimore, and with its failure to do so, is obligated to refund the additional fare (and possibly an additional amount as damages suffered).

  • emanon256

    I agree, on the pre merger UA 767 2 class E+ had the same amount of leg room as F and the width in F was only 1/2 inch better. However, F seats reclined much further, so if the person in front of you reclined, you were out of commission the whole flight. An exit row in there was far superior to First. Even more leg room, and limited recline from the row in front. E+ in general was still better than F if the person in front reclined. The reclining is the case on all UA pre-merger 2 cabin domestic planes.

    Wow, $9,999 is nuts!

    I’m frustrated with UA again, I booked another ticket to HNL and was very excited to see 3-cabin international planes since its an 8 hour flight. I booked global first, the three cabin first class, on a saver award, and cost 20,000 miles more than domestic first. Lie flat seats, video-on-demand, etc. Worth it in my opinion. Then they suddenly changed it to a 2 cabin domestic 757. I called for a refund and was told there is no saver F available, so my choices are to continue paying the 40,000 miles extra and stay in F, or get the 40,000 back, but be moved to coach. I went with the refund and move to coach for the reason you described. Domestic F isn’t much better on the 757, not worth 40,000 miles. I know, its totally a first work problem, but I am annoyed none the less. Mostly over not having lie flats, especially on the red-eye return.

  • bodega3

    UA has been removing their 777 planes from service to and from HNL. Not sure why. They did this to me and I have in my PNR, via an OSI message that I will only fly 777’s. They offered to change me, for free, to another flight that still had the 777 service.

  • Michael__K

    $200 corresponds to US Airway’s change fee. Which implies that the routing change did not increase the original fare. In which case, even if US Airways was obligated to bring the OP to Baltimore, they could probably still argue according to the letter of their contract that the refund amount on a $0 (or negative) fare difference is $0.

    Sometimes common sense fairness ought to prevail IMO, and I’m pleasantly surprised and glad it did here, albeit belatedly.

  • emanon256

    They did offer to change me to any other routing, but I preferred the direct, and the could not find any routing with the 777s all the LAX and SFO short hops seemed to be on 737s now. My least favorite.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m going to post something controversial here: I don’t think the airlines should need to refund the baggage fees if they lose the bags. Give me a minute to explain: I think the cost of the lost bag should be covered in the replacement payment. Let’s try this analogy: I mail a box with the USPS and I get insurance. They lose the box. I don’t think I get the money back for the shipping costs. Or do I? I don’t think so though. I get the money that’s the value of the object they lost and my destination buys a new item. It’s interesting that we have a relationship with shipping companies that is radically different than what we expect from airlines: We happily pay for insurance for something the post office should accept liability for anyway. They should be getting our packages there. It’s what we pay them for. If they foul up, THEY should pay us for the lost shipment and they deal with the insurance fees on their own or pass them onto us in the form of slightly higher rates.

  • EdB

    I have had packages lost by USPS, UPS, and FedEx. In each case, I did get the insurance value plus the original shipping costs back. This is the way it should be. You should get the original cost back because they failed to perform the service you paid for. The payment for the lost item is to compensate your lost for that failure.

  • MarkKelling

    Last November I flew from IAH to HNL using miles only in 1st on one of the old UA 3 class 777s still painted in their colors from about 3 paint jobs ago. I was completely underwhelmed. Lots of stuff was non functional. The video on demand was a box of Hi – 8 tapes you could load into the tape player in your seating area. None of the reading lights worked. Could not get the seat to go back up to landing position so I rode a FA seat (I don’t work for the airline, so there were lots of surprised looks from the other FAs not aware of the broken seat) and wondered why they just didn’t stick me in the pilot rest seat for the landing.

    The meal would have been acceptable for a 2 hour domestic hop (rubbery chicken with mushy pasta), but was depressing compared to what CO used to serve on the same route. And they ran out of beer before we got out over the ocean.

    At least it was on time! :-)

  • MarkKelling

    A 737 to HNL from the mainland just doesn’t feel right. The plane is too small.

    I am looking at going to HNL again in a couple months. UA is offering a DEN – HNL flight on a 737-900 that has to make a refueling stop in SFO. Nothing else except to just get fuel. I think I will choose some other flights..

  • emanon256

    Now that’s ridiculous. This airline can’t get much worse.

  • emanon256

    Its so sad to see this airline go down hill. Pre merger I know that UA was great, and it sounds like CO was great. Now both have become garbage. I always loved the long haul Hawaii flights because they really went above and beyond with service before the merger. The old UA food was decent in F, but on the Hawaii flights it was even better, I actually looked forward to it. We always got greeted with Champagne, then then had a multi-course meal, typically a seafood or Asian appetizer, then fresh fish options as well as steak or pasta for the main course. Dessert was hit or miss, sometimes it was an ice cream Sunday cart, other times it was carrot cake or cheese cake. Also, back then, the video in the seats was usually just 6 or 8 channels of looped videos, but on several occasions they passed out personal video on demand players to every passengers in F as well. They also had games, and special Hawaiian themed drinks and such. I also had a few on 767s where both business and F had lie flat seats with big screens and video on demand, true video on demand in each seat.

    I guess I got my hopes up to ohigh when I saw the 777 as I was expecting what UA did pre-merger.

  • MarkKelling

    Depending on your starting airport, you might experience better. It seems that UA and Houston are having a quarrel and the service from IAH has gone down more than others.

    I think I will just fly HA to the islands in the future. Getting to a city they fly from in time to catch their flights without an overnight layover can be difficult, but where I am now most flights out to Hawaii have a stopover anyway.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Then that’s the precedent. Thanks.

  • getalobbyist

    “Should the government require airlines to refund fees faster?”
    The US government? That would be a neat world to live in – but dude, you can’t be serious.

  • emanon256

    I typically fly either out of DEN or ORD. Only once I have been to IAH in recent years.

  • Carchar

    I made a fee refund request to United. I had paid in miles and currency for a cabin upgrade on a flight from Tel Aviv to Newark that took place in Oct. 2012. I was wait-listed, and then not upgraded on that flight, which I did take. I admit, I totally forgot to look to see whether my money and miles had been refunded until April of this year. My miles had been replaced, but I saw no evidence of a monetary refund. I filled out an online form to request the refund.

    Again, I got very busy and did not have time for the internet. At times I even had no internet service. So it wasn’t until mid-June that I checked to see whether or how United had responded. (I’m retired and internet, cell phones and modern electronics are not uppermost in my day about half the time.) United had responded. In fact, I almost didn’t find the emails, because they came from Customer Refund Services and not United. I’m glad I had not read the responses as they trickled in.

    1) 4/24/13

    “Thank you for contacting Customer Refund Services regarding the above referenced ticket. In order to research and/or process your claim, please contact the optional area selected for assistance. Please note associated fees may apply for research and handling as applicable.

    MileagePlus and redeposit requests are handled by our MileagePlus Department. Should you have any further questions regarding this matter, please contact: United Airlines MileagePlus Rewards P O Box 4365 Houston, TX 77210-4365

    Thank you for choosing United Airlines. We look forward to serving you again soon.”

    2) 5/23/13 at 8:04 A.M.

    “Customer Refund Services has received your request for refund of the above referenced ticket.

    The fare which you purchased allows a passenger to transfer the value of the original ticket to a new ticket for the applicable service fee. The service fee is charged for each ticket changed. A customer may have many reasons for needing to change their ticket: a new travel date, a different flight, a new destination, or a lower fare category on his or her ticketed flight. The service fee is charged whenever a customer exercises their privilege to make any change. Since a change did occur, WE ARE UNABLE TO PROCESS A REFUND. [Capital letters supplied by me.].

    Please be assured that United Airlines values your business and we look forward to serving you again in the future.”

    3) 5/23/13 at 6:28 P.M.

    “Thank you for contacting Customer Refund Services regarding the above referenced ticket. Your ticket inquiry pertains to a credit card. In order to research your claim, additional information may be required or you may be required to take a different action on this request: Please review the selected option(s) needed.

    Provide a copy of your credit card statement reflecting the charges in question.

    If we can be of further assistance, please contact one of our Customer Service Representatives via United.com by selecting the Reservations option and then locating the Refunds link. The prompts will direct you through the process.

    Thank you for choosing United Airlines. We value your business.”

    4) 5/24/13

    “Customer Refund Services has received your request for refund of the above referenced ticket.

    We are pleased to inform you that your request for a refund has been approved and was processed today. You may verify the details of your refund by entering your 13-digit United ticket number, beginning with 016 or 005, and your last name or your 8-digit refund request number (see above), using the following link; http://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/reservations/refunds/refunds.aspx

    Thank you for choosing United Airlines. We look forward to serving you again.”

    A quick check on my credit card statement showed the refund processed on 5/26/13.

    If you’ve stayed with my post thus far, ’nuff said.

  • Grant Ritchie

    I hope you follow up on this, Mel. For Delta’s contact information, go to the top of this page and click on Company Contacts; on the page that opens, click on Airlines and scroll down to Delta. Don’t let the bastards win.

  • emanon256

    I prefer the pre-merger process where they didn’t charge you the money, until you actually got upgraded. This charging in advance for something you might not get, and then having to request a refund later, is ridiculous.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Can you refuse to fly the alternate routing and demand to be placed on the original routing at a later time?

    Re: Lost bags. My sister received $500 from British Airways for delayed bags from LHR to CDG. They were delayed for 5 days.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    In fact, guaranteed overnight services will refund the entire cost if the packages are delivered late

  • Carol

    I deal with all major carriers that I am allowed to ticket in the US. The only exceptions are Southwest and Jetblue as they are not in my system. I have clients book those carriers directly on their websites as I cannot offer anything different than they can get booking it themselves.

  • EdB

    I had FedEx refund the entire shipping cost just because they failed to get a signature. I had sent a package with signature required and they just left it at the door. I went by to ask what happened and they were all apologetic about it and just refunded the cost even though I told them they didn’t have too. Just wanted to find out why they didn’t get the signature.

  • TonyA_says

    There’s a very easy answer to this? Did his e-ticket have a coupon for PHL-BWI as a stopover? If none, then end of story. In fact, there should not even been a story if there was no stopover on his itinerary.

    From the looks of it, BWI was not a stopover.

  • jpp42

    Of course I read the article, I understand the airline cancelled the flight. My question is why did he *accept* this at the time? If he had business in Baltimore and he was ticketed to fly there, why didn’t he object? Did the business need go away (it can happen)? My question is, why didn’t he ask to be re-booked back on an itinerary with a Baltimore stopover so he could complete the business?

    As other replies have pointed out it’s probably that the stop in Baltimore wasn’t booked as a stopover, but rather as a connection, which doesn’t obligate the airline to send him there.

  • jpp42

    That wasn’t my question, sorry for being unclear. My question is why didn’t he ask to be re-booked back on an itinerary with a Baltimore stopover so he could complete the business?

  • Aemilia

    I spent an hour on the phone trying to get a refund for a $79 “seat upgrade” fee that was moot when a flight attendant asked me to change seats to accommodate a mother separated from her crying child, who was seated several rows away. I was offered a $100 travel voucher, which I refused. After 40 minutes on hold, waiting for the customer service rep’s supervisor to respond, I finally secured the refund. Flight attendants should be empowered to immediately refund seat upgrade fees if they ask you to move out of a premium seat into a cramped middle seat (and on a red-eye from Honolulu, no less!).

  • LFH0

    True if there were no separate coupon. But what if there were a separate coupon? Traditional airline tickets were fairly uniform in appearance and format, and it was elementary to look and see if there was an “X” or “O” for each coupon. From my observations (which admittedly are not that thorough), online tickets seem to take many different forms, and I’m not sure if that distinction continues to be readily observed by purchasing passengers.

    I think you’re right about Baltimore probably not being a stopover. The fact that the additional amount paid by the passenger, $200, is the same amount as the change fee, leads me to conclude that the passenger did purchase a stopover. That is, the additional $200 was not additional “fare,” and he did not purchase the “privilege” of stopping over in Baltimore. He simply paid a fee for the privilege of changing a reservation itinerary to one which included Baltimore. But the carrier was not obligated to deliver him to Baltimore, and the carrier could probably still change his itinerary without compensation if it delivered him to the next point of stopover earlier than originally scheduled.

  • Mel65

    I did email Delta but I got a form “we’ve received and someone will contact” response only so far. It’s only $60 so it isn’t the money. It’s… ok, well it’s MY DAUGHTER. For me I’d shrug it off after grousing a bit….I guess when it comes to my kids I get a little more testy :)

  • Joe

    I fell for American’s “Main Cabin Extraa” scam. I bought the tickets, then after the fact selected seats, only to find that the only remaining ones were “premium” seats. I paid an insane $70+ for the privilege of sitting in the only seats available and in the end was able to switch to a regular non-premium seat. I was told the refund for the $70+ seat would be automatic. It took a written letter to customer service to resolve the issue, but they are clearly crossing the line by not disclosing the fact that only “premium” seats are available, and not automatically processing refunds when they’re due.

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