I spent hours—literally hours—planning five flights for spring travel. The first one was for a dream trip to Hawaii with my family, then I had a flight to New York and I booked my dad a flight from Florida to New York. It was a good experience—not exactly good in a fun way but more of an educational way, which is why I took notes and thought I would share them with you. Here’s my experience calling five different airlines for refunds:
We were flying Hawaiian Airlines from LAX to Honolulu because they fly a wide-body plane (A330), which I prefer over American’s narrow-body A321. I secured row 11, which is a premium economy seat in a section with just 1.5 rows. The reason I put 1.5 is because there’s only one row of two window seats on both sides but the middle has two rows of 4 seats across. We had the two seats on the window and I was across the aisle in the bulkhead. Hawaiian emailed me to tell me the flight canceled and I filled out a form online and I’m waiting for my full refund. If it goes through, which it should, it was pretty painless.
UPDATE: On Saturday, May 9 at 9:35pm, I finally got around to calling Hawaiian Airlines to tell them that they’d only refunded me for the tickets and not the $240 in extra legroom seats. The automated system said hold time would be over an hour but I could text so I chose that option and it worked great. The agent issued the refund and then sent me a text survey after which I gave high remarks. Although, I’m not sure why Hawaiian didn’t refund the seats in the first place? I purchased them at the same time and when I asked for a refund originally via their website, I referenced them. I wonder if airlines just try to make you jump through hoops so you finally give up.
RELATED: Coronavirus Resource Page
American Airlines (AA) emailed to inform me that our Maui-LAX flight was canceled for April 15th. I booked with AA because I have elite status and the flight from Hawaii to L.A. is an hour shorter so it’s doable on the A321. And since I’m Executive Platinum, I get Main Cabin Extra (5″ more legroom) seats and luggage for free. I called AA’s Executive Platinum desk on Thursday at 8:25am on April 2. No hold time. The call took two minutes and the agent canceled and gave a full refund with no questions asked.
Update: I called again a couple of days ago (Wednesday, April 8 at 5:40pmPT) to cancel another reservation after I received an email from them stating my Toronto to New Orleans (via Charlotte) flight for May 6 was changed by several hours. I called their Exec Plat line and had no wait and the agent refunded it in full with no questions asked. Easy as can be. Total call time: 5 minutes and that’s only because we made small talk about what’s going in the world. American Airlines (AA) so far is really shining and I’ve been hearing the same from other AA passengers. Kudos to them.
Southwest Airlines (SWA). I called at 820pm PT and the hold time was nine minutes. When they said they could do a callback, the wait time changed it to 11 minutes. They called back in about that time.
Backstory: I booked us Honolulu-to-Maui tickets since they were cheaper than with Hawaiian, it’s a brand-new route for Southwest, they offer two free checked bags, and they fly a 737, which is bigger than Hawaiian’s 717s. Yesterday, they sent me a text letting me know that they had canceled our flight but an hour later they sent me an email trying to upsell me to book a car rental for our flight. WTH?
I called the 800-number but the agent couldn’t find my confirmation number because I was giving her a JetBlue one! That was the next airline I needed to call. We figured it out when I asked if she was working from home because I thought many JetBlue agents do. She said, “This is SWA!” Doh!
Once I gave her the right confirmation code, she offered to rebook us or give us a travel credit good for a year. I asked for the refund and she said no problem. She said the refund could take up to 30 days to go through. Then she said they won’t be able to refund me because my credit card expired, which it had, but that’s ridiculous. I told her that my new card had the same number, just a different expiration date. She said she was sorry but that she could only issue a travel credit good until 2021. I politely held firm. She put me on hold and then came back when it went through. The total call time was 20 minutes.
I called JetBlue at 8:55pm on Friday, April 3, 2020. The hold time was 25+ minutes. They didn’t give me the option to text them like the last time I had called. The hold took 35 minutes for them to answer and the agent sounded tired. I was told that even though my 91-year-old father’s PBI-LGA flight had been changed to PBI-BOS-LGA, they could only give me a credit good for 18 months in either my name or my dad’s name. I kindly told her about the DOT rule (read about that here) and she said she was well aware of it but that this is JetBlue’s stance. Even though the flight was only $63.40 (I bought it when it went on sale), I asked to speak to a supervisor because they’re flagrantly breaking the law. She quickly put me on hold, which took about seven minutes. The agent was nice and working from home. I asked why I had to escalate this to a supervisor to get a refund and was told that basically, the agent didn’t know the directive had changed yesterday from management. Ridiculous. He agreed to refund it. It will take 7-10 days to go through. Total call time: 51 minutes.
My last call of the night was Air Canada (AC) at 9:48pm on Friday, April 3, 2020 for our Toronto to New York flight in May. (FYI: You need to press 1 for “English,” 2 for “Reservations,” then 4 for “Other.”) It took three minutes just to go through their repatriation flight info (there was no way to bypass it) and then I was informed that the wait time would be 20-25 minutes. The actual hold time was 15 minutes. I spoke to a nice agent at an overseas call center (sounded like India but I didn’t ask for some reason). He said that Air Canada’s policy is not to give a refund even if the flight cancels. I told him about the DOT rule but he didn’t care. This Air Canada flight falls under the DOT’s rules, which apply to flights flying to, from or within the United States, regardless of airline. I didn’t put up a stink since I was tired and my flight wasn’t canceled. It was just changed by three hours, and they offered a 24-month credit, which was generous. I’ll wait to see what happens. Total call time: 18 minutes.
Update: Air Canada sent me an email yesterday stating they changed my flight again so I reached out to them in a direct message via Twitter. They replied within 10 minutes then they went silent. See below:
Hi. I called and spoke to your Int’l call center last week. The rep said they could only offer a credit but according to the DOT you’re supposed to offer a full refund when you cancel or significantly delay the flight. Our flight was canceled and they put us on a new one but we just want to stay home. Here’s our conf #XXXXXX. Thanks for your help.
Air Canada (April 9, 2020; 4:01pmPT)
Air Canada Social Media /Charlie
Thanks for the prompt reply! Just to be clear so Air Canada isn’t going to abide by the D.O.T.’s rules? “U.S. and foreign airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.” https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-enforcement-notice-clarifying-air-carrier-refund… We appreciate the two year offer but we’re not planning on flying AC in the next couple of years.
Never heard back so I might have to play hardball. What would you do?UPDATE (May 12, 2020): I took matters into my own hands and this is what I did to get my money back from Air Canada.
There you have it: My experience with five different airlines, dealing with flight cancellations due to coronavirus.
What has your experience calling airlines for refunds been like?
Have you been calling airlines for refunds? Have you had any particularly easy or difficult experiences? Leave a comment below!