Lisa Pittman buys tickets for herself and her husband to fly from Bali to Singapore. But when AirAsia reschedules the flight, it promises her a refund. Five months later, Pittman is still waiting.
Question: In June of 2016, I booked two one-way airline tickets on AirAsia for a flight from Bali to Singapore scheduled for December 2016, and spent $254. A month before the flight, I received an email telling me that they had changed the flight times, so that the early afternoon flight that we had booked was now an evening flight. The new flight time was not going to work with our travel plans, so I took the option provided to me to cancel the flight and receive a full refund.
Since then, I’ve had numerous “live chat” conversations with AirAsia in order to try to get my refund. I was initially told that they were reviewing the request, and then was told on Feb. 23, 2017, that they had granted the refund the day before. I was told it would take seven business days for the refund to be credited to my credit card.
Seven days came and went with no refund, and I was then told it would take 30 business days. It is now April 4, and I still have not received my money. When I chatted with them yesterday, I was told to submit a claim form. I had done that March 8, but never received any feedback or response aside from being assigned a “case acknowledgment number.”
I submitted two more claims yesterday and got no acknowledgment at all. They also said yesterday that they wanted me to include proof, in the form of a copy of my bank statement, that I had not received the refund. I do not at all feel comfortable doing that, and I’m extremely frustrated.
I’ve been getting the runaround since I canceled my flight, and at this point, I just want my money back. Can you help me? — Lisa Pittman, Herndon, Va.
Answer: I know how frustrating it is to schedule flights that work for your travel schedule and then have the airlines throw a wrench in everything by significantly changing the flight times. Not getting the refund to which you were entitled just makes the situation worse.
When AirAsia emailed to advise you of your flight change in November 2016, it gave you three options:
Should you wish not to travel on the new flight time as advised above, guests are entitled to pick one of the following service recovery options being offered:
1. Move flight: Change to a new travel date on the same route within 14 calendar days from original flight date without additional cost and subject to seat availability; OR
2. Credit Account: Retain the value of your fare in a credit account for your future travel with AirAsia. The online Credit Account to be redeemed within 90 calendar days from the date of issuance; OR
3. Refund: Obtain a full refund in the amount equivalent to your booking and in the form of your original payment.
You chose option three, and you informed them of the option you chose. AirAsia should have immediately refunded your money. But it didn’t.
AirAsia is a low-cost carrier operating across Asia through subsidiaries in various countries, with varying terms and conditions and flight codes. Your flights were booked through and operated by Indonesia AirAsia, and the terms and conditions that apply to these flights confirm that these are the options the company offers to passengers booked on any flight that has had a schedule change of more than three hours.
You immediately requested a refund. AirAsia acknowledged your request, sent you a confirmation, and assigned a case number. The company said it would “be in touch with you soon.”
Then you waited … and waited.
After several conversations asking about the status of your refund and several additional requests for you to complete another refund request (which you did), you still hadn’t received your refund more than four months after your initial request.
On Feb. 23 of this year, you initiated another live chat with AirAsia and once again asked for a report on the status of your refund. The representative informed you that the refund had been approved and processed the previous day and that you should check with your bank in seven days. What a coincidence.
When you hadn’t received your refund 14 days later, you contacted the company again. The representative asked you to complete yet another form to request an ARN, which the company claimed would allow you to trace your refund through your bank.
So after more than four months, AirAsia wants you to do more work in order to receive your refund. When you still hadn’t received additional information or your refund on Mar. 15, you contacted the company yet again and was told — again — that the refund had been issued on Feb. 22, 2017. The agent wanted you to complete another form and attach a copy of your bank statements to prove that you had not received the refund they claimed they sent.
I don’t blame you for being concerned about attaching your bank information. You could certainly draw through personal information and any trackable information with a black marker, but I’m not sure that the company would accept “redacted” statements since it was putting the responsibility on you to prove that you didn’t receive the refund.
This representative also informed you that refunds take 30 days, not seven days as you were originally told back in November — but even with a 30-day refund window, you should have had your refund long ago. You agreed to wait until the end of March.
The end of March came and went, and on Apr. 3, you tried again, only to learn AirAsia wanted you to file another form. I can hardly believe the response you received:
the team already done submit to your credit card … on 22 FEB 2017. thus bank will take 30 workings day to reflect your bank account
I think someone is having trouble counting the days. According to my calendar, 30 days after Feb. 23 would have been Mar. 25. Does AirAsia actually mean “30 working days?” That’s not what it said, but perhaps it does. It still doesn’t change the fact that your refund should have been received 30 days (working or otherwise) from Nov. 6, 2016.
You could have used our AirAsia contacts to appeal to company executives, but you contacted us instead and asked our advocates for help.
On Apr. 5, 2017, five months after receiving notification of the flight change and AirAsia’s promise of a refund, and one month after completing the form to request the ARN tracking number, you received the following information from AirAsia:
We are now still waiting for the bank to provide us with the Acquire Reference Number (ARN) and will forward to you once we receive it. ARN is unique number that tags for credit card transaction and can be used by issuer bank to trace transaction with acquire bank. Once again, please accept our sincerest apology for the delay and inconvenience as the team is dealing with massive request on refunds which is causing the long delay. We are doing our best and follow up was made accordingly. You will be updated immediately once your refund request is completed.
A few days later, you finally received your full refund.
The amount of time it took AirAsia to process your refund is unacceptable. But you remained polite, yet firm, and never let the company off the hook. You also started a paper trail immediately and kept everything, which becomes extremely important when either contacting the executives we list or asking for our help.
If you ever find yourself in this situation again (which I hope you don’t), I encourage you to reach out to the executives we list on our website much earlier. I am convinced that AirAsia thought you would forget about the money if it waited long enough (and I’m certain other companies do exactly the same thing). The longer you wait the less likely you will have a successful outcome.