Can she get a refund, not just credit, for canceled flights?

When Hawaiian Airlines cancels Jacquelin Heinen’s flight, she asks for a refund. But the airline will only offer a credit. Is that correct?

  • Sunday, January 3, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

Q: In 2019, I booked flights through Travelocity to fly from Kauai to Minneapolis in April. The first two legs of my flight, from Lihue to Honolulu to Los Angeles, were on Hawaiian Airlines. The last leg, from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, was on Delta Air Lines.

In late March, Hawaiian canceled our flights because of COVID-19. Travelocity contacted us and promised we would hear from them soon about receiving a ticket credit or refund. But we never heard another word from them.

I contacted Hawaiian, and it sent us a note saying we needed to work with Travelocity. I tried calling Travelocity on numerous occasions, and it would automatically disconnect because my flight was not within 72 hours.

I tried to “chat” online with a representative who said we could only get a credit to use by Dec. 31. I insisted on speaking to a supervisor, and they gave me a number to call, but you could not get a live person. I’m trying to get my $1,100 refund. Can you help me?

— Jacquelin Heinen, Lakeville, Minnesota

A: If Hawaiian Airlines canceled your flights, you should have received an immediate refund. The representatives at Hawaiian and Travelocity were wrong. Under Department of Transportation rules (www.transportation.gov/airconsumer), you were entitled to a full refund within seven business days if you paid by credit card. The rule also applies to tickets booked through an online agency like Travelocity.

Hawaiian was correct about one thing. You needed to go through your travel agent for a refund. That means reaching out to Travelocity. The company should have an automatic system in place that asks you if you want a refund or ticket credit. But it looks like that notification system wasn’t working during the pandemic, at least for you.

Travelocity wasn’t totally honest with you. I reviewed the emails it sent you and it gave you only one option: to claim your airline credit. This gave the appearance that Travelocity was working with the airlines to keep your money.

I wouldn’t have called Travelocity for a refund. Sending an email works better, because you can keep a copy for your records. Unless you record the call, there’s no evidence of it. You could have also appealed your case to an executive at Travelocity. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of key Travelocity executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia-customer-service-contacts (Expedia owns Travelocity).

Your case is a reminder of the importance of keeping a paper trail and knowing your rights as a consumer. I’m glad you questioned the Travelocity representative who told you that your only option was to accept a ticket credit. That was untrue.

I checked with Travelocity, which reviewed your case. It turns out you were eligible for a full refund after all. “Our agents are processing her refund,” a Travelocity representative told me.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.

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