I’ve been waiting for a refund since last summer

Wendy Bell has been waiting for a refund on an unused airline ticket since last summer. What’s the holdup? And who can help her get the missing money?

Question: Last summer, on my way to Kilimanjaro, my Washington to New York flight was canceled and rescheduled by JetBlue.

The rescheduled flight didn’t work because I would have missed our international flight. I contacted my booking agent immediately, and since JetBlue didn’t have any workable flights, I ended up taking a train to New York.

I have been waiting to hear about a refund for this portion of our travel for months. My travel agent has submitted a request for a refund but has not been able to give me any information beyond that he’s waiting for a response.

I thought I was waiting on JetBlue, but I found out today that I’m actually waiting for Qatar Airways, its partner airline. Can you please look into this matter for me? — Wendy Bell, Takoma Park, Md.

Answer: Did you say “last summer”? That’s a long time to be waiting for a refund, even from an international airline.

I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it merits repeating: Refunds like yours should happen quickly. An airline is required to forward a credit to your card company within seven business days after receiving a complete refund application. It may take your card up to two billing cycles to credit you, but that’s another story.

Your requests to JetBlue ended in disappointment and with conflicting information. The airline sent you a form letter, saying it allows “20 business days for processing and an additional 7-10 business days for delivery” of a refund. “However, since this was booked through a third party, your agency will need to process the refund according to their procedures and possibly the other airline on the ticket.”

Being a “partner” allows Qatar to sell a ticket from your airport all the way through to your destination as if it’s being operated by Qatar (even though your plane says “JetBlue” on it). The benefits of code sharing are that you can treat both airlines as if they are one — except when they don’t feel like it. And in this particular case, maybe Qatar just didn’t feel like it.

The money should have been sent to you quickly without anyone asking. You did the right thing by roping your travel agent into this. He should have known that Qatar had your money and asked for it as soon as possible. It looks like he finally figured out where to go for your refund at roughly the same time you contacted me.

Your refund request might have benefited from a little push by you. I list the executive contacts for both Qatar and JetBlue on my advocacy site.

Your agent was as frustrated as you were. His airline contact told him that it is Qatar’s policy to refund tickets within three months. If that’s true, then it’s a violation of Transportation Department regulations.

I contacted your agent on your behalf. That seemed to do the trick. A refund of $274 was processed, representing the full amount of your leg. Separately, one other member of your party who had also been delayed received help and a refund after contacting the airline through the help forum on my consumer advocacy website. I’m glad your wait is over.

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