Passengers of Cancelled COVID-19 Flights Denied Refunds


Airlines are among the industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. As booked flights were canceled, passengers were offered vouchers or credits for future trips. However, due to the extent of the financial crisis, many people requested cash refunds instead. The airlines have not budged from their position. 

In April, a lawsuit was filed against American Airlines, saying it violated consumer protection laws by not refunding cash to passengers whose canceled flights were COVID-19 related. The suit also noted the $50 billion in aid that was given by the US government to airlines to keep them in business,

American Airlines is now requesting the class action lawsuit be dismissed, claiming passengers canceled their booked trips by choice, and some agreed to arbitration clauses when they bought their tickets. 

Meanwhile, spokeswoman Laura Brewer of the office of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said there are “approximately 66 complaints” against different travel sites and airlines that have denied refunds.

British Airways passengers Gordon and Margaret Minto were given vouchers instead of cash refunds following their canceled flights to the United States.

“We were stunned… we looked at each other and said, ‘we haven’t asked for a voucher,’” Margaret explained.

Despite the carrier’s claim that it will “always provide a refund if a customer is eligible,” the couple said they never asked for vouchers and only wanted their money back. However, communicating that request to British Airways was hard.

Under the European Law, passengers are entitled to their money back within one week when a flight is canceled. BA used to direct customers to an online platform that handled refund requests. The carrier called it “the quickest way” to get your money back.

However, when the pandemic hit, causing thousands of canceled travel plans, that refund option was deleted from British Airways’ website. This left Gordon and Margaret with no recourse other than email to request their refund. 

The response that they received was even more unsatisfying. British Airways advised them they had accepted vouchers already and could not swap them for money.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, consumers who feel deceived by the process should file a complaint about their experience with the airline in question. If they are not satisfied with the carrier’s response, they can seek reparations through the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), an approved alternative dispute resolution service.

In a statement, British Airways stated that they have refunded over 1.67 million customers since March 2020 and provided more than 1.3 million with vouchers they can use until April 2022.

The BA representative stated, “we will always provide a refund if a customer is eligible, and we’re offering flexibility if any of our customers need to change their flights.”