When Brenda Alvarez’s flights to Costa Rica are canceled because of Hurricane Irma, she tries to secure a refund from American Airlines but it only offers 10 percent of the original cost of her flights. She wants to know if we can help her get more.
Question: Due to Hurricane Irma my flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, with a layover in Miami on American Airlines, have been canceled twice. I called the airlines and they said the maximum refund they can give me is $54 when it should be $419. Isn’t this an involuntary refund? Can I get full refund? I booked with CheapOair — will this affect the refund?
Can you help me get a full or close to full refund since the flights were canceled twice and I cannot reschedule again. I have already bought tickets with another airline so I just want my money back. — Brenda Alvarez, La Puente, Calif.
Answer: Hurricane Irma disrupted lives across the Caribbean and in Florida — and resulted in the cancellation of thousands of flights. Unfortunately, your flights were among those that were canceled.
Apparently, American canceled your first flight on Sept. 11, rebooked you for a flight on Sept. 13, and waived the change fee. But when it canceled your reservations the second time, you simply wanted a refund.
In the event of normal flight cancellation, American Airlines Conditions of Carriage only promises to reroute a traveler on the next available flight, which it did when it changed your flight from the 11th to the 13th.
This wasn’t a normal cancellation — it wasn’t because of a crew or mechanical issue. This cancellation was because of a major hurricane barreling towards Miami, so it falls under a different section of American’s Conditions of Carriage, “force majeure events.”
Under this section, American can, without notice, “cancel, terminate, divert, postpone or delay any flight without liability except to issue an involuntary refund.” It would appear that you were due a refund from American.
After your initial request for a refund from American Airlines you learned that it was willing to reimburse you only a fraction of the cost of your ticket, so you used our contacts for American to reach out to its executive team, but didn’t get a response. So you asked for our help.
In our correspondence with you, we learned that your ticket was actually purchased through CheapOair instead of directly through American. This could be why you are having trouble getting a full refund through American. So we reached out to CheapOair on your behalf.
Since you originally purchased your ticket through CheapOair, when you wanted a refund, your first call should have been to that company rather than to American Airlines. We also list the contact information for Fareportal, CheapOair’s parent company, on our website.
A member of the CheapOair executive team responded quickly. The company reviewed your case, corresponded with American Airlines, and informed us that you would receive a full refund.