When your airline cancels a flight because of weather, are you entitled to a full refund? Elizabeth Hearn wanted to know after she booked a flight from Norfolk, Va., to Shreveport, La. — a flight that was canceled because of a Nor’easter late last year. Neither her carrier, American Airlines, nor her online travel agency, Priceline, would give her back the $400 she had spent.
Can they just keep her money?
Of course not. American and Priceline sold her a product that they couldn’t deliver. That’s a slam-dunk for a credit card dispute under the The Fair Credit Billing Act, which covers “charges for goods and services you didn’t accept or weren’t delivered as agreed.”
But before we get too deep into the weeds on Hearn’s rights, let’s hear from her.
I bought a ticket through Priceline for a flight from Norfolk, Va., to Shreveport, La. My flight was on American Airlines and ended being canceled because of bad weather. The Nor’easter hit our area on Nov. 13 and my flight was canceled.
When I contacted Priceline, a customer service rep referred me back to American. The Priceline rep stated that since the flight was cancelled by American, American had taken control and would be issuing me my refund. I then contacted American. After several different service reps, a very nice lady let me know that I had purchased an opaque fare, which meant American did not know how much I paid and could not refund me. I would have to contact Priceline.
When I contacted Priceline, they insisted that American would refund me and not Priceline and if American would not refund me then — well, too bad.
American Airlines’ contract of carriage — the legal agreement between you and the carrier — is crystal-clear on this issue:
In the event the refund is required because of American’s failure to operate on schedule or refusal to transport, the following refund will be made directly to you if the ticket is totally unused, the full amount paid (with no service charge or refund penalty) …
This back-and-forth is unacceptable. Whether Hearn had an “opaque” fare (which means she didn’t know which airline the flight would be on until she booked it) or not, she didn’t get what she paid for. She’s entitled to an immediate refund.
I contacted Priceline on Hearn’s behalf. Here’s what I got back.
We were able to get through to the right people at American. The refund is being processed and we will notify Ms. Hearn today. Sorry about the delay.
Hearn is happy with the resolution, but I’m troubled by the little game of ping-pong that American Airlines and Priceline played with one of its customers.
Even with my intervention, it took nearly two months for the refund to process. It should have taken hours — if not minutes.
(Photo: Stuck in Customs/Flickr Creative Commons)