My flight got changed, and now I can’t go to Phuket

When Malaysia Airlines reschedules Alice Bu’s flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Phuket, Thailand, she asks for a refund. But she gets nothing but radio silence. Where’s her money?

Question:: Malaysia Airlines recently changed my flight times on a trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Phuket, Thailand. The airline contacted me and asked me to accept a new flight, but I couldn’t. I asked for a refund.

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Malaysia Airlines said the refund would take three weeks, but it’s been more than three months. Can you help me get my $280 back? — Alice Bu, Masai, Malaysia

Answer: The airline should have refunded your fare promptly. According to section 11.3 of its general conditions of carriage — that’s the legal agreement between you and the carrier — you’re owed exactly $280.

But the fine print deserves to be reviewed, as it always does. Malaysia Airlines says if it cancels a flight or fails to operate a flight “reasonably according to schedule” and if no portion of your ticket is used, you’ll receive a full refund. Virtually every airline has an identical policy, although some carriers will quibble about the definition of “reasonable.”

The important question that comes next is: When?

“All refunds will be subject to the laws, rules, regulations and government orders of the country in which the Ticket was originally purchased and of the country in which we make the refund,” says the contract. But it doesn’t say you’ll get your money in three weeks, three months — or three years.

And that’s a problem.

See, Malaysia Airlines can take your money in an instant, thanks to the miracle of credit cards. But when it comes to returning it, the airline can take its time, as many airlines do. It is under no obligation to refund you quickly.

True, sometimes it takes a few extra weeks for the money to show up on your credit card (please don’t get me started with “billing cycles”). But even so, you should have had your money a long time ago.

A brief, polite email to Malaysia Airlines might have shaken something loose. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the airline’s contacts on my consumer-advocacy site. They sometimes have the power to give the accounting department a little push.

I contacted Malaysia Airlines on your behalf. It sent you the promised refund, minus a mysterious $33 service charge and a $22 travel insurance charge. Airlines!

8 thoughts on “My flight got changed, and now I can’t go to Phuket

  1. Is it possible the airline refunded the money under the insurance and didn’t simply refund it due to the flight change? Why else would they not refund the insurance and a fee amount? I don’t know how much the schedule changed, but possibly this is why they kept a portion.

    1. insurance is nonrefundable – that is also why I always offer 3rd party — you can move those to another booking if unused! 🙂

    2. Meaning they filed a claim with their own underwriter? It’s possible, probably a major contract and policy violation, but it’s Malaysia.

  2. What did the screen (s) say before she hit the purchase button? Did it offer her insurance? Probably and the block to purchase it may have already been checked (seen that before on some sites). As for the service charge, perhaps there was a line in the purchase screen that stated there is a service charge; although I cannot imagine why they would charge her when they cancelled her flight, unless there is a service charge for doing “anything” to her ticket.
    I just cannot believe it, but some airlines seem to get away with anything these days.

  3. File aq dispute with your bank card, you get your money back immediatly (okay within 24 hours) and then they can handle the waiting game with the airline.

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