Get a Refund for a Cancelled Flight Ticket - Not Just a Voucher.

How to Win a Credit Card Chargeback Dispute. 

Complete Details & Sample Letter for a Refund on a Non-Refundable Ticket, Seat & Baggage Charges. 


Should I Accept a Voucher for Future Flights?   Is it Too Late for a Refund on a Flight Cancelled Due to Covid-19?


Refund by credit card chargeback for cancelled flight
Seinfeld: "You see, you know how to 'take' the reservation, you just don't know how to 'hold' the reservation.
And that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them."

Fed up with an airline like Delta, Air Canada, Jet Blue, Southwest, Lufthansa or TAP Air Portugal for refusing to give you a refund?  This article gives specific details on how you can get a refund on a non-refundable airline ticket after the flight was canceled - even those caused by the Covid-19 virus epidemic. It is done by using your legal right to dispute the credit card charges - also known as a chargeback of the credit card charges. It doesn't matter if it's Chase, Capital One, or Bank of America, they all must help you.

Do not accept a voucher for future flights. Some reasons why: ✦You are entitled to a refund, dammit. ✦The airline will make you agree that the voucher is a substitute for a refund, limiting your future rights. ✦The voucher will have a time limit and possibly fees and added conditions. ✦The airline may not be in business or offer the same destinations or class of service when you want to use it. ✦Why trust an entity that won't adhere to it's own Terms of Carriage? Fool me once....

Our case involved a Visa credit card from a US bank and began with a US to EU flight. However since the procedures and the governing rules are based on credit card 'Core Rules', this information will be very useful for other jurisdictions, for Mastercard & American Express, and for other types of credit card disputes.

Be aware - disputing a credit card charge is not an exact science - the card issuers have a lot of latitude in this process. Our approach might not be best for you and the rules may change, so do additional research to maximize your chances.  Note: When we say document some action, we mean getting something factual to prove your point- like an email printout, a screenshot of a relevant web page, a letter, or even your detailed notes with specific dates and times and the names of the person you spoke with.

Below we give the important key points to make and to document in disputing a credit card charge, also known as a chargeback of a credit card purchase. At the end of the article, to get you started there's a notated sample letter adapted from a letter we used with success, though keep in mind there are no guarantees when used with a different credit card company or with different circumstances.

The chain of logic that we believe will lock in your right to a chargeback follows. Your claim will be strongest if you document each point.  Then we give additional informational comments and the sample letter.

1.) The airline agreed in its 'Terms of Carriage' to give you a refund if it cancelled the flight without a reasonable substitute. Those Terms are intrinsic to the purchase agreement you and the airline made.
(You should find a link to the 'Terms' in the Booking email you received when you bought the tickets.)
2.) The airline is also required to give you a refund by the regulations of the US Dept. of Transportation and/or the European Union if it cancels the flight without a reasonable permitted substitute. These regulations are inherently an intrinsic part of the purchase agreement you and the airline made.
3.) The airline cancelled the flight without a reasonable permitted substitute.
4.) The airline is now only offering you a voucher and not a refund. Or, it has not made a requested refund in a timely fashion. Or, if you already accepted the voucher, allege the airline knowingly misled you by only offering the voucher.
5.) You have tried to correct this with the airline to no avail.
6.) Therefore, the airline has not provided the service according to the purchase agreement paid for with the credit card and you are entitled to void the sale & receive a chargeback.

✦We recommend you begin by writing to your credit card company's dispute department. Send it certified or tracked so you can prove the date. A US card company is required to act by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Your credit card company probably offers a dispute mechanism by phone or on a web page, but we went with a written dispute to be sure our claim was presented fully with attached documentation right from the start. It shows the bank and the airline you are serious and you know what you're doing - plus can you imagine getting the average customer service rep to understand every point over the phone?

✦You need to try to resolve the matter with the airline - it's a prerequisite to the chargeback.  Document those attempts.  If they offered an alternate flight, document why that was not reasonable in order to void one of the airline's possible excuses. If they offered a voucher, document that offer too.

✦Even though you booked through an OTA (online travel agency) such as Expedia or Kayak, the entity responsible for issuing the refund is the airline. Beware of the blame game if the airline sends you back to the OTA - there may be a procedure in place or it may be obfuscation. Also, the OTA may try to gouge you with service fees for the refunds. Tell everyone you know to never use an OTA to book a flight.

✦There are time limits on different aspects of the chargeback process. We believe the current outer limit on beginning a dispute is 120 days from the date the services or merchandise was supposed to be delivered.

✦Your account will be credited quickly, but do not count on the money - it might be reversed, and your available credit may be reduced by the credited amount until the matter is resolved. The airline has (normally, we think) 30 days to refute the allegations. If their answers to your disputation are judged reasonable, your credit card company will re-instate the charge on your account. The whole affair may take 90 days to be finalized.

✦If the charge is re-instated, don't give up if you still disagree - you have the right to appeal. On appeal you can learn the airline's response and counter with new documents or facts and point out mistakes that have been made to try to get the decision reversed. We think the period to appeal a denial on a dispute is 30 days, and if the appeal succeeds the airline has another 30 days to appeal your appeal. For more about the appeals, there's the official Core Rules.

✦For deep diving, the Visa rules are here: Visa Core Rules Oct. 2019  While they don't provide specific procedures, they can be very helpful to motivated consumers who can digest the details - there are over 800 pages laden with industry jargon. The Dispute section is 11.2 and the merchandise/services not received section is 11.10.02


Sample Credit Card Dispute Letter - Notated

The words or numbers in Bold Red (No.) are to show relevance to the corresponding number in the logic chain above - the numbers are not intended for inclusion in the letter.

June 31, 2020

Gigantic Bank, Inc.
Disputes Dept.
PO Box 12345
Corporate City, OH 67890

RE: Hopeful J. Consumer    Account Number  4003 4444 5555 6666

Dear Gigantic Bank,

I am writing to dispute a charge on my long-held credit card account, to wit:

Posted Jan. 09, 2020               TinySeat Airlines $ 1549.99

I ask that you chargeback the full amount of the above transaction for the Reason - Services Not Received (6.) as TinySeat Airlines did not supply the agreed flights. The flights were cancelled by TinySeat Airlines and TinySeat did not / could not provide a reasonable substitute (3.) as most flights they offer were cancelled during the current pandemic.

I have tried many times (5.) to contact TinySeat Airlines to resolve this matter (5.) and they are unresponsive in the extreme. The refund section of their website only offers a voucher (4.) for future services. Under the 'Terms of Carriage' (1.) for this flight purchase, TinySeat Airlines states that a refund will be provided (1,) if it cancels a flight. Further, under both US and European regulations (2.), a full refund must be made for cancelled flights in these circumstances. See postscript below for US and EU statements and website addresses.

I have faith that Gigantic Bank will want to defend this loyal customer from this unsavory behavior.  We have received guidance from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that consumers can resort to chargebacks on worthless tickets as per the terms of the Fair Credit Billing Act. Further, I understand the general time frame allowed for chargebacks under the Visa/MasterCard chargeback guides is 120 days from the date the purchased services were to be provided. 

In support of this chargeback request, I enclose five documents:
  • Printout of the original booking email from TinySeat airline. (1.)
  • Printout of the refund section of TinySeat's 'Terms of Carriage' referenced on the booking. (1.)
  • Printout of TinySeat's email rebooking our Boston departure to Newark (w/o a connection!) (3.)
  • Screenshot showing the TinySeat Airlines flight listed as cancelled. (3.)
  • Two screenshots of TinySeat Airlines Refund pages offering only a Voucher not a refund. (4.)
Please advise if you have questions or need more information. My contact information is below.

Regards,

Hope Consumer

Ms. Hopeful J.Consumer   
PO Box 666
Grover's Corners NH 038nn

Email: hopeful@gmail.com
Phone: 987-654-3210

Postscript:

-One of the many US DOT website statements (2.) that cancellation refund required is:
“If your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets.  You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”
URL:https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/flight-delays-cancellations

-One of the many EU website statements (2.) detailing policy regarding cancelled flights is here:
https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm#cancellation

End of Sample Letter


More Info

US Department of Transportation Some American travellers have found that filing a DOT complaint causes the airline to actually pay attention.

Elliot Advocacy For background, read case histories and advice from a consumer advocacy organization.

LA Times Refund Article Some Californians may also have a state law on their side.

Canada CTV Refund Article If a voucher was the only option offered, you were misled and can still try to dispute.

Canada Refund Facebook Group Canada specific info with a useful PDF Guide to calling your card company developed with input from credit card providers.


About Us
Really good Italy travel website writers
Fall 2017: our 56th Italy trip.
We are Mike and Martha from Boston and we have visited Europe over 60 times in the past 30 years. We are retired photo editors and we've had an apartment eleven miles by crow or drone from Italy's Cinque Terre for over 25 years. We know Europe well and we keep current by reading the local news and travelers' forums and keeping up with travel websites.  We also maintain the web's only archive of  Cinque Terre ferry schedules to help people off-season. We hope our information will help you have a great trip. When planning, remember there are no right choices, just different pleasures. Buon Viaggio.

Disclosure
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The airliner photo is by Cory Hatchel who generously granted a Creative Commons license. The photo can be found on Flickr. 

Written by Martha and Mike. All this stuff is Copyright 2020 by Amendola Media LLC.

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Ligurian Proverb:  Ogni promessa e un debito. (Every promise is a debt.)