Coronavirus News: How to get a refund from an airline for a canceled trip

NEW YORK (WABC) -- One of the most complained about topics that 7 On Your Side has received is how to get a refund from an airline after a trip has been canceled.

In March and April, the Department of Transportation received more than 25,000 complaints -- a figure so high it was labeled "unprecedented."

So 7 On Your Side found out the right way to get a refund.

One family's dream vacation to Barcelona to celebrate their daughter's hard work for spring break was supposed to be a surprise.

But when Spain's coronavirus numbers spiked, the Ramirez family's April 9 flights on British Airways and Iberia were canceled.

Claudia Ramirez-Lopez said Expedia told her the airline policy was non-refundable.

Expedia stated the only option was credit for travel within a year of booking, and they booked back in January, paying over $1,700 for the fare.

That's when the Ramirez family was put in touch with 7 On Your Side by a mutual friend.

We contacted Expedia back on April 15 and reminded the third-party booking site of the enforcement notice issued by the DOT at the beginning of April.

That notice reminded the traveling public that U.S. and foreign carriers have to refund passengers promptly when their scheduled flights are canceled.

Despite the statement the DOT has made enforcing this mandate for refunds, one travel expert says it's likely airlines will continue to try and offer credits instead of a refund -- particularly as the DOT says it won't be strictly enforcing this as of yet.

Francesca Page, a travel expert known as Miss Travel Guru, said the airline first wants to hold on to your cash and rebook you, so it's up to you to fight for your money back -- or reach out to 7 On Your Side.

After we went several rounds with Expedia, the company apologized and said they waited for the airlines to refund them first. But after a few weeks, the family got a full refund, $1,702.41 returned to to their account.

Big takeaways:

If you want a refund -- don't cancel the flight. Your only hope to get a refund is if the airline cancels first. Our expert cautions if you're worried about getting a refund, book through the airlines directly.

7 On Your Side found out firsthand it's much tougher to get a refund through a third-party travel booking company.

And don't hesitate to dispute a refund charge through your credit card company. That sometimes could be your best bet.


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