At first glance, Siafa Sherman’s case should have been straightforward. According to Sherman, she paid for a refundable air ticket on Lufthansa, which she then canceled — and was due a refund.
But when both our forum staffers and regular advocacy team took a look at Sherman’s paperwork, they realized that Sherman’s ticket was not refundable — and Sherman was not happy to hear that.
Sherman’s case is a warning that even when canceling airline tickets within 24 hours of making a reservation, passengers may not be entitled to refunds — and need to closely read the terms and conditions of their tickets before committing to purchasing them.
So what went wrong in her case?
Sherman purchased a ticket from Washington Dulles Airport to Hamburg, Germany. She canceled her flight within 24 hours of purchasing the ticket and then made a claim for a refund.
Here’s Sherman’s description of what happened next:
I cancelled my Lufthansa flight several months ago, but the airline refuses to provide a full refund or credit. I’ve received a partial refund ($137 in taxes) but the airline refuses to refund or credit the entire ticket ($1,269).
After disputing the charges via my credit card company (American Express), I was informed that I purchased a nonrefundable ticket (only refundable 24 hours after purchased). However, I was unaware that the ticket was nonrefundable and I followed the cancellation policy on Lufthansa’s website (refundable up to 24 hours before departure).
After I mentioned the cancellation policy webpage to American Express and Lufthansa, the airline changed it; luckily I saved screenshots. American Express is siding with Lufthansa’s claim that I was informed of the nonrefundability (which I do not recall). Even if that’s the case, the policy wasn’t consistent across the website. I contacted the DOT [Department of Transportation] and they filed a complaint; however, they can’t enforce refunds and/or credits.
So Sherman claims that she believed that she purchased a refundable ticket, and that Lufthansa failed to adequately disclose its nonrefundability before she completed the purchase. She adds that her booking confirmation did not include the terms of cancellation or refundability. Although she attempted to upload the screenshots of her flight confirmation to the forum, she was unable to do so.
Further into the forum thread, Sherman maintains that Lufthansa changed the information in the online screens to reflect what she claims is the changed nature of the ticket. She also insists that Lufthansa changed the language on its website regarding the refundability of tickets following cancellations.
If this doesn’t make any sense to you, then you’re in good company with our forum staffers, who advised Sherman to write a nice letter to Lufthansa’s customer service department and upper-level executives asking for a refund of her airfares — but that she has no legal right to expect a refund for a nonrefundable ticket. (Executive contact information for Lufthansa can be found on our website.)
Sherman told the forum that she wrote to Lufthansa, which refused to issue her the refund, and that she plans to take legal action against the airline. Then she contacted our advocates for help.
Lufthansa’s general conditions of carriage contain the following language about the refundability of airfares:
If you request a refund …, the amount of the refund will thus correspond provided the respective fare conditions provide for this:
… if no portion of the Ticket has been used, an amount equal to the fare paid, less any reasonable service charges or cancellation fees;
Refund to Credit Cards Accounts
Refund due to tickets paid for with credit cards can only be credited to credit card accounts originally used for the ticket purchase. The refundable amount to be paid by us will be in accordance with the rules within this article only on the basis of the amount and the currency entered in the ticket. The refundable amount to be credited to the credit card account of the card owner can vary from the originally debited amount by the credit card company for the ticket due to differences in conversion. Such variances do not entitle the recipient of the refund to a claim against us.
This language assumes that the airfare was refundable. And Lufthansa’s general conditions of carriage contain no suggestions of refundability of airfares within a 24-hour window for cancellation.
Despite Sherman’s claim that Lufthansa changed the terms of her booking subsequent to her receiving confirmation of the reservation, we think it is highly unlikely that Lufthansa changed these conditions or the terms of Sherman’s booking at any time subsequent to her making her original reservation. And since she claims she has retained an attorney and is taking legal action against Lufthansa, her case, assuming she has one, is outside our advocates’ ability to help her secure a full refund of her airfare.
Our advocates have decided not to take this case.