TPG reader Andrew Kavan had the same painful experience as countless other travelers this spring and summer.
While on a business trip to Charleston, South Carolina, in late May, he learned that the first leg of his return trip to Omaha, Nebraska on Delta Air Lines had been canceled.
Re-booked on another flight, he found he would now be leaving the next morning, which virtually ensured his trip was going to get more expensive.
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Kavan booked a nearby hotel, but that wasn’t the end of his spending. He also had to pay a $30 taxi to get there from the airport. In total, he estimates the theft issues cost him more than $200.
While the right travel credit card can be a great way to offset these types of costs, many people can’t help but think that in these types of situations the airline should pay.
However, feeling like the airline owes you money and Actually getting those funds are two very different things. This sentiment can be especially true when you add in the extremely long wait times you might experience when trying to speak to a customer service agent, not to mention the vast size of major airlines.
However, you could call Kavan’s story a success: the airline eventually refunded him. But it took months. And his experience has some lessons you should keep in mind for your future travels.
Understand why your flight was canceled
I’m sure there are plenty of travelers who have asked an airline for some sort of refund, while fighting the nagging feeling that they’ll never see a dime.
Kavan had no such doubt, however.
“I had a good idea that I would be reimbursed,” he told TPG.
His confidence stemmed from the fact that he had done his homework on the reason for the initial cancellation.
After receiving notification from Delta that his flight would be canceled, he quickly decided to call customer service. He didn’t call them to change reservations – as he had already done through the app, which is usually your best bet. Instead, he had a simple question for customer service: Why was his flight canceled?
“They told me it was the availability of flight attendants,” he said.
This fact validated his curiosity. After all, when issues beyond the airline’s control – such as weather or air traffic control problems – are to blame, you’re unlikely to receive compensation for the extra expenses you incur when a flight is delayed or cancelled. It’s a different story, however, in cases like Kavan’s, when the airline is to blame for the problems. Among other problems, the airlines are responsible for mechanical problems and personnel problems, as in this case and in many other cases in 2022.
The federal government has tried to ensure that flyers know which cases could qualify for reimbursement and what types of expenses are eligible. To do this, the government has created a new customer service dashboard which sets out the compensation policies of major airlines. President Joe Biden touted the recent measures in a September 12 speech, saying it had led to increased consumer protections, although a trade group for the largest US airlines noted that carriers had already largely these measures in place.
For example, the government’s new customer service dashboard shows Delta passengers have the right to rebook on another airline at no additional cost in the event of controllable cancellations like Kavan’s. Additionally, affected passengers will receive cash for meals or a voucher for waiting more than three hours, a free hotel room for unscheduled overnight stays, and free ground transportation.
But how quickly should that payback happen?
Reimbursement took months
Knowing he deserved reimbursement for the costs he incurred for the extra night in Charleston, Kavan filed a customer complaint through Delta’s website shortly after his trip – in early June, he told GPT.
Soon after, he began to realize that a refund – if he had one – might take a while.
“They said they would call me back,” he explained. But “the original email said it would potentially take longer than 30 days.”
June passed without reimbursement, then July. He received an email from the airline on August 15 that his case was still open.
Finally, on September 1, he received the news he had been waiting for: a message that Delta had approved him for reimbursement of expenses he incurred while traveling in May.
He shared a screenshot of the message with TPG. This said he could go to a third-party site to claim his funds within 16 days, or the airline would simply send him a check.
Sure, it marked a sort of victory, but at the same time, Kavan pointed out, “I was a little surprised how long it took.”
How soon should you receive your money?
U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines are pretty clear on how quickly you should receive a refund for a flight — which you are still entitled when your flight is canceled or significantly delayed and you ultimately choose not to travel. The regulations state that airlines are supposed to issue “prompt” refunds for such tickets, which it defines as within seven days for passengers who paid with a credit card or 20 days for those who paid in cash or by check.
It is a little less clear with regard to the reimbursement deadline for expenses associated with hotels, meals or transportation.
The travelers who weighed on our TPG show on Facebook shared a range of delays they encountered when seeking refunds from airlines.
Paul Campbell has asked American Airlines for a $447 hotel refund after he got stranded in Chicago and spent a night at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel on his way back to Texas.
“Took over 60 days but got refund from hotel [plus] $250 vouchers for my wife and I,” Campbell said.
Amanda Bradley said her reimbursement from American for lost baggage also took about two months – “and a lot of emails”, she added – after her flight was cancelled.
Meanwhile, Wendy Teare added that she got a “quick and hassle-free” refund from Alaska Airlines after her flight from Seattle to Juneau was canceled earlier this year due to a lack of staff.
“They also sent me a flight credit for the delay,” Teare added.
When asked by TPG, the DOT did not give specific refund timelines for these types of cases, but a department spokesperson said airlines can be held responsible for “not providing promised refunds within a timely manner.” within reason”.
“Travelers who do not receive service within the time frame may file a complaint,” the DOT said, pointing to the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, which evaluates complaints “based on the facts of each case.”
“OACP would be concerned if complaints allege that an airline took months after receiving the cost information requested by a consumer to provide a refund,” the DOT told TPG. rights have been violated. »
A department spokesperson also reiterated recent comments from Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that additional regulations may be on the horizon.
Regarding Kavan’s three-month wait for reimbursement from Delta, the airline told TPG “we sincerely apologize for their experience and will continue to look for ways to improve the customer experience.”
At the end of the line
It’s always a good idea to find out why your flight is canceled or delayed — it can help you decide whether or not to seek reimbursement for certain costs you incur. While federal guidelines make it clear that eligible travelers must get refunds for tickets within one week, timelines are less clear when it comes to reimbursements for expenses such as hotels, meals and ground transportation. However, the federal government clearly doesn’t think it should be a long wait.