They didn’t cancel my Air Canada ticket – now what?

Senohrabek /
Senohrabek /
When Chad Cleven cancels his Air Canada ticket, he expects a refund in a few weeks. But it never comes. Now the airline wants to keep his money. What’s going on?

Question: A few months ago I purchased a non-refundable airline ticket directly from Air Canada for a friend to travel from Seattle to Cairo. Within 24 hours of booking this ticket, I learned that he wouldn’t be able to accompany me on this trip, so I called the airline and requested a refund.

I had heard about the new rule requiring airlines to issue refunds to travelers within 24 hours of purchase, so I didn’t think this would be a problem. When I spoke to Air Canada reservations to cancel the reservation, I was told that the funds would be credited back to my credit card.

A little under two months later, I realized that I had not yet received the credit to my credit card. Upon checking on the Air Canada website, I found that this reservation hadn’t been refunded because the agent on the phone had not actually processed the cancellation.

At this point, it was a few days before the ticketed flight date. I canceled the flight online, and contacted Air Canada to again request that the funds be credited back to my credit card. I was then told that my refund could not be processed because there was no record of my cancellation within the 24 hour cancellation window.

I disputed this charge with my credit card company, and they initially credited my card, but they ended up reversing the charge back to me as the airline told the credit card company that the ticket was non-refundable, and there was no record that I had canceled the ticket within 24 hours of purchase.

The credit card company then wanted a cancellation number to prove that I had cancelled the reservation, but the airline never gave me such a number, so I had nothing to provide.

I’ve sent an email to Air Canada once again requesting that my refund be processed as I originally requested, but so far have only gotten an automated response stating that it will take up to three weeks to review my email. Considering that there’s a rule requiring refunds in the 24-hour period, is there anything that can be done to actually receive this refund? — Chad Cleven, Tulalip, Wash.

Answer: You’re right, there’s a Department of Transportation rule that says your airline must refund your ticket if you cancel a reservation made within 24 hours. What’s more, the refund must be made within 7 days of the cancellation.

So what went wrong? Even though you called to cancel your companion’s ticket, the agent with whom you spoke apparently never processed it. If that person had done so, Air Canada would have given you a cancellation number, which would have at least ensured your credit card dispute would go your way.

If you’d canceled your flight online, then Air Canada would have sent you a written confirmation with a cancellation number (often your record locator) and the other particulars. If you didn’t have anything in writing, then you could have complained directly to the Department of Transportation.

You can file a consumer complaint at its website.

Securing a cancellation number is helpful of some form of written verification, but it’s not the only way to ensure your cancellation. Air Canada, like other airlines, records its customer service calls for “quality assurance” purposes, and can review the transcript. If you can’t reach anyone at Air Canada, try one of its executives. I list them on my website.

I contacted Air Canada on your behalf. It decided to refund your ticket “on an exceptional basis” and promised you a full refund within three to four weeks.

Are airlines following the DOT 24-hour rule?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • shonuffharlem

    Why didn’t he get a cancellation confirmation duh.

  • Daddydo

    Once you are our customer and I have resolved a problem, we front the refund until it comes in. We have a staff that is ruthless when it comes to the airlinesonce we have the written authorization. We have not been burned on this policy in 35 years that I have owned the agency and We are not worried about the internet. Smart travelers know the value of an agent

  • Daddydo

    No pass necessary. I always use a certified professional for all my necessary services. I am certified with 45 years of classes, I take ASTA classes annually at meetings, I am a member of the Association Of Travel Agents for 40+ years and promote ASTA agents whenever I can. I do charge fees for travel, but never hear any complaints when I save client’s vacations due to problems, find better routes than the internet, find discounts after the tour is paid for and offer refunds. I am the only ASTA agent in a 50 mile radius of 15 agencies and take in 60-70% of all liesure travel because I am an ASTA agent. I don’t see any harm in promoting people to use ASTA. ARTA, Results branded agencies compared to the internet where there is poor to little communications with humans. I have always assumed you to be a travel agent and if it offends you, I will never mention ASTA again even if they are desired as agents for store front agencies. By the way, ASTA helped me get 4 premium seats free today from USAir. Flights had a schedule change and clients lost their excellent seatsand USAir said tough luck. Paid for my annual dues.

  • TonyA_says

    Makes a lot of sense if you are in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
    IMO, not much for international locations and highly competitive markets. Most people just want low price, period.