Where’s the refund for my Air France ticket?

By | April 4th, 2014

air franceAir France is holding $2,400 of Daniel Jean-Jacques money for a fully refundable ticket. Why won’t it surrender the money?

Question: I’m a graduate student at the University of Texas and I was recently awarded a fellowship to conduct research for two months in Ibadan, Nigeria. Believing that I would be departing from New York and then returning to Austin, Texas, I booked the trip in two legs. However, knowing that this could change, I reviewed the refund policies for both legs carefully to make sure the tickets were refundable.

My plans did change, and a roundtrip between Lagos, Nigeria, and Austin became more appropriate. I called Priceline, which had arranged the outbound leg, and my refund was approved within 15 minutes. But Air France, through which I arranged the return flight, was not so accommodating.

As per the instructions on its website, I sent an email to their “Customer First” program within 24 hours with my refund request and the appropriate information. I also called their web support number to make certain everything was in order. It was at that point that they began to say that I had booked my ticket through the Nigerian Air France website, though I was given absolutely no indication that this might be the case as I purchased the ticket.


I was referred to the Air France Nigeria office, which I have attempted to contact numerous times by email, but I have never received a response. I have also contacted a number of other offices of Air France and its affiliates. I have been told on at least five occasions that my information has been forwarded to the Nigerian office, but — three months since I first submitted the refund request — I have still heard nothing from that office.

Related story:   Do I deserve a refund for this Sicilian vacation rental?

At this point, I am more than exasperated. I have spent more than 24 hours on the telephone and have written many emails. Despite my efforts, I cannot even get a representative from the Air France refunds department to speak directly to me on the phone. The closest I have gotten is to reach the refunds department of its codeshare partner, Delta Air Lines, which can get Air France’s US refunds department on the phone, but refuses to transfer me through or provide me with a contact number.

At stake here is roughly $2,400, one quarter of my fellowship award and the equivalent of one month’s income for my wife and I combined. I am contacting you out of sheer desperation. I have been lied to, put off, and handled very rudely. After three months, I feel that I have gotten nowhere. — Daniel Jean-Jacques, Austin, Texas

Answer: If you had a fully refundable airline ticket, then Air France should have credited to your card within a week of your request. That’s not just me saying it; there’s a Transportation Department rule that says refunds must be made within seven business days.

Don’t believe me? Here it is.



  • $16635417

    May I suggest a different poll question? Rather than require refunds faster than seven days, why not just enforce the seven day rule? In cases where the seven day rule is not being followed, how would changing it help?

  • Sam Varshavchik

    So, did the airline provide an explanation for dragging their feet, and all that rigamarole?

    I mean, the answer is obvious, of course. But, I’m sure their entertaining explanation would’ve been worth at least a few seconds of amusement.

    Oh, and that business about taking 1-2 billing cycles to see the credit, that’s all nonsense. It takes only a few seconds of computer time to issue a credit, but the dumb consumer, before the age of the intertubes, had to wait until the end of the billing cycle to see the actual credit. If the credit was processed just after the billing cycle ended, and a new one begun, and the consumer was yet to receive the statement for the just-closed billing cycle, then the credit will appear on the next one. Duh. That’s all that means.

  • TonyA_says

    Looks like a French version of a Nigerian scam :-)

  • Stereoknob

    No, 7 days is fine…. as long as it actually HAPPENS. That’s the most important part, the refund has to happen. When it doesn’t, people have to be held accountable.

  • Kairho

    Seven days is not optimal but given bureaucracies, it’s reasonable. Shortening that would just multiply administrative and enforcement hassles with little advantage.

  • Pegtoo

    And require a 50% apology fee (paid to the consumer) when it takes longer than 7 days.

  • TonyA_says

    If the airline itself issued the fully-refundable, non-restricted ticket, without going through an agency and a Billing Settlement Plan (e.g.ARC) I see no reason why a refund for an e-ticket cannot be processed within 24 hours.

    Let’s go through the logic quickly.
    (1) The airline verifies that the ticket is completely unused. This is a mindless effort nowadays since (outside the USA) it is 100% e-ticketing. The airline service rep can look that up online easily and verify it.
    (2) The Form of Payment (FOP) is in the PNR (RES) and e-ticket. So there is no excuse that they cannot issue a credit on that same charge card or FOP.
    (3) The Fare Basis Code is on the PNR and e-ticket. Airline can easily verify if the ticket is fully refundable.

    Seven days is too long today. Maybe it was okay when they still issued paper tickets.

    The above is only my amateurish opinion. But even a noob can ask WHY it takes that long in the age of twitter.

  • Mike

    Big fine or double refund of delayed would help. Rule should be three business days not a full week.

  • $16635417

    My experience has shown that refunds ARE processed quickly and usually appear within 24 hours when I check my credit card statement online.

    Reading this case, and then asking the unrelated poll question, will skew the answer. Did the refund take too long in this case? Answer: YES! (Based on facts provided.)

    Without enforcement of the rule, I just don’t see how changing the limit from 7 days to something less would have made a difference in this case.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes. levying a stiff penalty or fine would be an excellent law that Congress can legislate. Maybe a FREE First Class ticket to anywhere you want will be motivating.

  • Lindabator

    But he booked as one way FROM Nigeria on a foreign carrier – not sure how US could force the regulation. Why didn’t he use Priceline for that ticket as well?????

  • TonyA_says

    Destination is USA – falls under regulation.

  • MarkKelling

    Probably got a better price buying from the foreign site.

    i.e. cheap ;-)

  • bodega3

    While the destination is the US, the ticketing office and the carrier are not part of the US. Had the OP used a local travel agency instead of booking this online, he wouldn’t have wasted his time trying to get Nigeria to respond…there is a joke in this but won’t go into that now.

  • bodega3

    Some deal he got. Dumb move on the OP’s part IMHO. What did he save with all the time and hassle?

  • MarkKelling

    Not really sure how he got better prices by buying two one way fares for international travel. In my experience, a one way international fare usually costs more than the round trip or even an open jaw on major airlines.

  • Lindabator

    Funny, but I was curious, so went online – there is NO way he did not know he booked thru Nigeria’s site, as he could NOT book it any other way – the US site does not allow for a one way from Nigeria, so he had to click to go to the Africa options and enter the Nigeria site to book. So why not go BACK thru that site for the refund? The US office wouldn’t have any way to refund it, as it was a foreign office, and would have to be refunded by them. I can see why this was such a cluster. But they should have given him an option to contact them directly, if he didn’t wish to email from the site.

  • bodega3

    For fully refundable tickets, one ways are usually the same or close to a roundtrip fully refundable ticket. Not sure why he didn’t but he may have not known the he could do an open jaw ticket.

  • Lindabator

    Thank you – my point exactly – and read what I just posted about this – no WAY he did not know he booked from the foreign office.

  • Lindabator

    No – because he CANNOT book that flight on the US site – see my new post!

  • bodega3

    This is where DIY’ers shoot themselves in the foot booking online. He probably would have qualified for a student fare, too, which would have been less expensive. He didn’t use a TA because???? Probably to save money, but did he?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Agreed, I would very much have liked to hear their explanation. I’m assuming they simply didn’t give one, and just sent the money. Because really, there is no excuse.

  • bodega3

    With being able to see your account online, you do see charges and credits more quickly, but the 1-2 billing cycles is still a norm and what we tell clients as not everyone looks online and only sees these when they receive their statement in the mail. For international carriers, refunds have taken longer than domestic carriers. It took 3 months recently for a credit to show up for client.

  • TonyA_says

    Because Priceline does not sell the AF ticket he needs from Nigeria.

  • TonyA_says

    Ok what would you have done for this pax?
    What would it cost him?

  • bodega3

    It would have been booked through the GDS for our regular international ticketing fee. We would have processed the refund for no extra cost and I would have stayed on top of it until it was refunded. ARC works with us on these. Been there, done it.

  • bodega3

    Do they do roundtrip, just not one ways? Had the OP done an open jaw could that been done on that website? I get the one way concern for the OTA. The OP also should have thought about what security might have considered on a one way, too, and booked it roundtrip.

  • Raven_Altosk

    In a predominately cashless society, there is no excuse for a refund on a REFUNDABLE ticket that takes more than 60 SECONDS to process.

  • bodega3

    No it doesn’t. There is paperwork involved that does take time and if it goes through ARC, that is done weekly.

  • LFH0

    This is exactly what I was thinking as I was reading. But it goes beyond mere “amusement.” This goes to the issue of what the intending passenger and/or carrier did wrong, so that other intending passengers can avoid getting caught in the same bind and/or so that intelligent public policy can be implemented (i.e., regulation) to prevent this and other carriers from doing the same thing. As Mr. Elliott related the story, I can’t tell who did the wrong, or how.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’ll give them 48 hours for paperwork.
    But if I can return a TV to walmart and get the cash back on my card in a second, the same applies to a plane ticket.

  • bodega3

    It isn’t how it works if a ticket is processed through ARC. We report all tickets issued in the GDS to ARC. That happens once a week. Then they take it from there, where it gets sent to the carrier and the carrier processes it. Same with OTA. I don’t know how the carriers own website handles things.

  • Alan Gore

    Air France is not renowned for its service. It’s renowned for being French.

  • TonyA_says

    But that is quite irrelevant. Who would have thought an OTA (like Priceline) was better than an airline itself in terms of refunding a fully-refundable, non-restricted ticket. We cannot criticize the OP for buying 2 one-ways, that is his wish. But we can certainly criticize Air France because they did not refund on time. You cannot blame the OP from buying DIRECT from the airline.

  • TonyA_says

    The US DOT rules affects ALL (commercial) flights that touches US soil.
    The OP could have filed a complaint with the DOT.

  • MarkKelling

    My experience with airlines and refunds are limited (in recent history anyway) to UA, WN, and F9. ALL of them have processed refunds for tickets bought directly from them so that they appear on my credit card within 48 hours including over weekends or holidays. Sometimes, if I cancel soon enough, the original purchase doesn’t even make it to my credit card so there is no need for a refund.

    But your comment brings up questions: If tickets are only entered into the system weekly, how are last minute reservations handled by travel agents? If the items are not entered into the system except weekly, what guarantee does the passenger have that there will even be a seat available by the time the information gets there?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    C’est vrai.

  • bodega3

    It is only the paperwork for the payment or refund that is handled weekly. When a reservation is ticketed, the ticket number automatically (there might be a few carriers requiring this to be done manually) gets put in a message to the carrier so they see that it was issued.
    The airline’s handle the credit card payments, so if you deal directly with them by phone or online, you should see the credit faster. In 3 decades of selling tickets I have only had one long wait for a client to get their credit and it was with an international carrier. It took weeks and was just a year ago, so it doesn’t happen very often.

  • bodega3

    The OP could also have used a TA.

  • bodega3

    One way international air brings your ticket to the attention of security. Also, placing both segments in the same reservation may have save him some money even on one ways. I have found this a few times and it has to do with taxes. He probably didn’t realize he could do an open jaw unless he was trying to save more money due to an exchange rate booking it with an overseas office. If it was the latter, it cost him time and aggravation that surely wasn’t worth it.

  • MarkKelling

    Thanks. Appreciate you sharing your knowledge to educate us.

  • bodega3

    Thanks for saying thanks!

  • flutiefan

    “student fares”? those exist??

  • bodega3

    Yes and fares for teachers, too. You have to have proof and these fares have less restrictions, lower change fees and up to a year to stay before having to return.

  • TonyA_says

    But the TA will charge him a separate non-refundable booking fee PLUS another service fee for the refund.
    He does not need to pay any of these by buying a fully-refundable ticket DIRECTLY from the airline.
    The problem here is the airline and not the decision of the OP where or how to buy it.
    Any reasonable person should assume they can buy a fully refundable ticket directly from an airline and get it refunded without problems.

  • TonyA_says

    All fine points but still does not explain the dereliction of duty to refund a fully-refundable ticket in a timely manner. This is a free country so the OP can buy what he wants, how we wants it, etc.

  • TonyA_says

    The ticket sold by Air France directly does not go through ARC.
    It should even be faster and quicker to refund.

  • TonyA_says

    The discussion about ARC is not relevant if you buy your ticket DIRECTLY from the airline. The main function of ARC is to settle accounts between the airline and the travel agencies (and to support traffic documents).

  • TonyA_says

    If you read the cancellation penalties of most Air France fares, you will definitely buy travel insurance.

  • bodega3

    It should but then it is Nigeria where he purchased it. Maybe they thought his credit card was a scam :-)

  • bodega3

    Of course, but it is Nigeria, so I guess he won’t be doing that again!

  • bodega3

    But he proved this not to be the case. Trying to save can cost you. I wouldn’t give Nigeria my credit card number.

  • flutiefan

    what airlines have them? the ones i’ve worked at haven’t.

  • bodega3

    They are contractual fares and you get them through a few wholesalers/tour companies. Not available through the carriers directly. Good tip is the fare is based on the outbound date, so if you depart to Europe in the winter, you usually get a fabulous rate, good for a full year of travel. You have to have a student ID from your school to qualify or employment documentation from your school district if you are a teacher.

  • Annie M

    But travel insurance wouldn’t normally cover this situation. It’s a shame that it had to get to the point of Chris intervening – it should have been done immediately. This guy did everything right.

  • TonyA_says

    Agree, that’s exactly why he bought refundable fares – no insurance needed. I was referring to AF’s excursion fares – their truly Napoleonic.