Lufthansa Promised Me a Full Tax Refund (In Writing) and Then Withheld +$500

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Apr 5, 2016
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I am writing to you in the hopes of resolving an issue with an airline that initially promised, in writing, a full tax refund and then rescinded on their offer. I would like to request full tax refund from Lufthansa airline, including the $516.00 YQ tax for a ticket that was cancelled with ample notice.

Prior to booking this trip in December 2014, I was in contact with the Lufthansa customer service department regarding the details surrounding booking a ticket under a promotional deal with my skymile rewards. I was hesitant to book a trip four months in advance due to the high possibility of conflicts with work.

Prior to booking this trip with my Miles and More skymiles, I specifically asked a customer service representative if there are any restrictions I should be aware of with this booking and I was explicitly told, in writing… “Please note that for a Mileage Bargain you cannot rebook the flight. Additionally, if you cancel a Mileage Bargain you will be refunded the taxes but not the award miles.” Believing in the reliable information provided by the Lufthansa customer service team, I booked my flight believing I would receive a full tax refund if I had to cancel.

At no point in time was I told I would receive only partial taxes in return, with the exception of the YQ surcharge. Since there was no mention of a partial tax refund by the customer service representative, I believe I should be refunded the full amount for a reservation that was cancelled ahead of the trip.

In April 2015, I called to cancel my flight and was told I would only be refunded partial taxes. Additionally, after looking into this case, another customer service representative told me I should receive a full refund on my taxes if I write a letter to corporate because management "does not deny written requests with a solid standing". I’m sure they have a recording of this conversation, as well as the 4 or 5 other conversations between in March and April when I was in the midst of cancelling this trip.

To date, I have only received a refund of $96.56. I believe I am entitled to a full refund and should therefore receive the additional $516 fuel surcharge for a flight I cancelled with ample notice.
 
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While I will defer to some of the legal experts, typically fuel surcharge is an airline add-on fee, not a government tax
 
Oct 5, 2015
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Correct YQ / YR are carrier-imposed fees (CIF). They are not taxes.
However both are added up and reported as taxes & fees.
 
Mar 4, 2015
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@Betrayed Customer! , do you have in writing where Lufthansa referred to their YQ surcharge as a "tax?"

If they truly did, you could complain to the DOT which has fined carriers for such misrepresentation:

https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.dev/files/docs/eo_2012-11-1.pdf

https://www.transportation.gov/brie...can-airlines-violating-price-advertising-rule

Note however that any imposed fines are paid to the US Treasury and the DOT can't force an airline to compensate you.

Otherwise you can write to our Lufthansa Company Contacts to appeal and see if they can do something for you. It's possible they will be more amenable to offering a credit than a refund, if that works for you. Start with the Primary Contact if you've already tried the generic customer service email. Allow 7 days for a response before appealing to the next contact, and so on.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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I am writing to you in the hopes of resolving an issue with an airline that initially promised, in writing, a full tax refund and then rescinded on their offer. I would like to request full tax refund from Lufthansa airline, including the $516.00 YQ tax for a ticket that was cancelled with ample notice.

Prior to booking this trip in December 2014, I was in contact with the Lufthansa customer service department regarding the details surrounding booking a ticket under a promotional deal with my skymile rewards. I was hesitant to book a trip four months in advance due to the high possibility of conflicts with work.

Prior to booking this trip with my Miles and More skymiles, I specifically asked a customer service representative if there are any restrictions I should be aware of with this booking and I was explicitly told, in writing… “Please note that for a Mileage Bargain you cannot rebook the flight. Additionally, if you cancel a Mileage Bargain you will be refunded the taxes but not the award miles.” Believing in the reliable information provided by the Lufthansa customer service team, I booked my flight believing I would receive a full tax refund if I had to cancel.

At no point in time was I told I would receive only partial taxes in return, with the exception of the YQ surcharge. Since there was no mention of a partial tax refund by the customer service representative, I believe I should be refunded the full amount for a reservation that was cancelled ahead of the trip.

In April 2015, I called to cancel my flight and was told I would only be refunded partial taxes. Additionally, after looking into this case, another customer service representative told me I should receive a full refund on my taxes if I write a letter to corporate because management "does not deny written requests with a solid standing". I’m sure they have a recording of this conversation, as well as the 4 or 5 other conversations between in March and April when I was in the midst of cancelling this trip.

To date, I have only received a refund of $96.56. I believe I am entitled to a full refund and should therefore receive the additional $516 fuel surcharge for a flight I cancelled with ample notice.
I'm so sorry to read this story. Fuel surcharges are not taxes. If you would give us a breakdown of all the charges, perhaps we could help.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,738
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@Betrayed Customer! , do you have in writing where Lufthansa referred to their YQ surcharge as a "tax?"

If they truly did, you could complain to the DOT which has fined carriers for such misrepresentation:

https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.dev/files/docs/eo_2012-11-1.pdf

https://www.transportation.gov/brie...can-airlines-violating-price-advertising-rule

Note however that any imposed fines are paid to the US Treasury and the DOT can't force an airline to compensate you.

Otherwise you can write to our Lufthansa Company Contacts to appeal and see if they can do something for you. It's possible they will be more amenable to offering a credit than a refund, if that works for you. Start with the Primary Contact if you've already tried the generic customer service email. Allow 7 days for a response before appealing to the next contact, and so on.
I believe that contacting the Department of Transportation should be the LAST resort, after you've made every effort to work this out with Lufthansa.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
@Betrayed Customer! , do you have in writing where Lufthansa referred to their YQ surcharge as a "tax?"

If they truly did, you could complain to the DOT which has fined carriers for such misrepresentation:

https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.dev/files/docs/eo_2012-11-1.pdf

https://www.transportation.gov/brie...can-airlines-violating-price-advertising-rule

Note however that any imposed fines are paid to the US Treasury and the DOT can't force an airline to compensate you.

Otherwise you can write to our Lufthansa Company Contacts to appeal and see if they can do something for you. It's possible they will be more amenable to offering a credit than a refund, if that works for you. Start with the Primary Contact if you've already tried the generic customer service email. Allow 7 days for a response before appealing to the next contact, and so on.
Our OFFICIAL recommendations as staff here is not to jump the gun and go to the DOT until ALL other avenues have been exhausted. Once you go to the DOT, you shut down communications between you and the airlines as they may stop corresponding and more important, Chris loses the ability to help.

Please use our contacts for the airline before you go to the DOT.
 

kenish

Sep 1, 2015
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@judyserienagy and @Flywisely are correct - Fuel surcharges are *not* taxes (the money does not go to any government entity, unlike PFC's, security fees, etc). When you contact a government agency such as DoT or "lawyer up" the airline (or any corporation or private party) will no longer communicate with you. Filing a complaint to government regulators is certainly a choice, but we recommend it as a last resort. Use the escalation process with Lufthansa that @Michael K refers to in the last paragraph of his post. The advocates on this forum recommend it too.
 
Jan 5, 2015
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@Betrayed Customer! ,

As the others have noted we recommend only involving government agencies as a last resort, not a first one. It will tie up your claim for the reasons noted.

What we do recommend using the company contacts at http://elliott.org/company-contacts/lufthansa-airlines/. Write a short, polite email to them explaining the situation and asking for the "tax" to be refunded to you. Write one at a time, and don't start with the CEO.
 
Mar 4, 2015
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Sorry if I wasn't clear.

By all means start with the Lufthansa Company Contacts to pursue all avenues for a refund.

I would be fairly surprised if, in spite of repeated DOT guidance and enforcement action, Lufthansa misrepresents their own fee as a "tax." But if they indeed do so, then it's very important (IMO) for the sake of other passengers to eventually alert the DOT to such a misrepresentation. Regardless of whether or not @Betrayed Customer! ultimately receives a refund.

Also, I would recommend a very different sort of correspondence with the Company Contacts between the two scenarios. If Lufthansa appropriately refers to their surcharge as a carrier "surcharge" then @Betrayed Customer! ought to curry their favor and ask them to make an exception, on the basis of his/her confusion between taxes and carrier-imposed fees.

On the other hand, if Lufthansa really categorized their surcharge as a "tax", then s/he can send a short and sweet letter from a position of strength:

Re: {PNR code here}
Dear Lufthansa,

You charged me $516.00 for what you called a "YQ tax" (see attachment #1) on a Mileage Bargain reservation.

You promised me in writing that you would refund all taxes if I cancelled my Mileage Bargain reservation (see attachment #2).

I cancelled the reservation on April xx 2016. Please refund me the $516.00 accordingly.

If your position is now that this "YQ tax" is not a tax, but rather a non-refundable surcharge, please be aware that, per US Department of Transportation guidance:
"Failure to accurately describe carrier-imposed surcharges and leading consumers to believe a carrier-imposed charge is a tax is a violation of section 399.84(a) and an unfair and deceptive practice and an unfair method of competition in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 41712(a)."

@Betrayed Customer! -- good luck and keep us posted if you have any news.
 
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Unless your rights have been violated, NEVER file a complaint with the DOT, in my opinion, because it is a waste of time and the airline might just clam up and not give you hush money or points. Twitter shaming might work better.

The reason why you come here is to get an opinion on whether your rights have been violated. We are telling you that YQ/YR are not taxes. However, some airlines FAIL TO DISCLOSE THAT PROPERLY.

If you want to use that legal theory then I suggest you read the ff. Please think carefully before you proceed. Not every comment in this forum is always helpful and you should use your better judgement.

Benjamin Edelman's Blog a Harvard law professor (infamous for suing a Chinese takeout joint over $4)
http://www.benedelman.org/airfare-advertising/

and notices that GDS made around 2015 to comply with recent required disclosures.

https://travelport-english.custhelp...Dv8S~xb~Gv9g~yJPe~EqWIv7wO5sHD7~Pv_l&2=911811

YQ/YR–CARRIER IMPOSED FEES/CHARGES/SURCHARGES LEVIED BY AIRLINES

The purpose of such disclosure is to make sure the buyer (pax) knows YQ/YR is not tax.
 
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Jan 5, 2015
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I think the issue of if they referred to it as a tax or not is a red herring at this point. It's a fuel surcharge fee and the question is therefore, should it be refunded as such? I sure think so, especially since the fuel surcharges are so high and if the OP cancelled well in advance.

Lufthansa stated in 2010 they are no longer refunding fuel surcharges on unused, nonrefundable tickets. Personally, I don't agree with the policy and think it's a cash grab, but that is their policy. You can read more at http://centreforaviation.com/news/l...n-unused-tickets-ancillary-revenue-move-41720

I believe if you don't ask, you don't get, and @Betrayed Customer! should definitely use the contacts provided to ask for the fee back. Next time, I suggest asking what parts of the ticket are refundable or what taxes and fees are refundable, etc. It's rotten you have to do that but apparently they're going to split hairs. What they told you is true, but they sure didn't tell you what you needed to know or were really asking!
 
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I think the issue of if they referred to it as a tax or not is a red herring at this point. It's a fuel surcharge fee and the question is therefore, should it be refunded as such? I sure think so, especially since the fuel surcharges are so high and if the OP cancelled well in advance.
If it was a fuel surcharge I would agree with this and would have mentioned this. However I don't believe it is called a fuel surcharge these days. Now they call it an "international charge"--

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35311224

This is how they get around the DOT guidance requiring that fees (such as fuel surcharges) "must accurately represent the actual cost of the item for which the charge is assessed."

...
YQ/YR–CARRIER IMPOSED FEES/CHARGES/SURCHARGES LEVIED BY AIRLINES

The purpose of such disclosure is to make sure the buyer (pax) knows YQ/YQ is not tax.
FYI, if you read the DOT's consent order against Air France, in that case it was strictly their "Flying Blue" website (dedicated to the purchase and redemption of frequent-flyer award tickets) which mis-characterized a surcharge as a tax.

The DOT decided that this was a violation worthy of a fine, even though Air France asserted in its defense that it was otherwise in full compliance through other ticketing channels.
 
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If it was a fuel surcharge I would agree with this and would have mentioned this. However I don't believe it is called a fuel surcharge these days. Now they call it an "international charge"--

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35311224

This is how they get around the DOT guidance requiring that fees (such as fuel surcharges) "must accurately represent the actual cost of the item for which the charge is assessed."



FYI, if you read the DOT's consent order against Air France, in that case it was strictly their "Flying Blue" website (dedicated to the purchase and redemption of frequent-flyer award tickets) which mis-characterized a surcharge as a tax.

The DOT decided that this was a violation worthy of a fine, even though Air France asserted in its defense that it was otherwise in full compliance through other ticketing channels.
Good to know, I guess, but is this relevant in any way to how the OP gets their money back? The process and their core issue is the same no matter what they call it.
 
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Actually the DOT has been hot on this issue of disclosure. And there is good political reason why. If you remember, there was/is some Congressional moves to dismantle the full fare advertising DOT rules because some lawmakers say airlines do not have to disclose taxes up front or include them when advertising for fares.

So the DOT actually clarified their position on Carrier Imposed Fees, and this led to GDSes making more disclosures.

The issue here is no whether YQ/YR is a fuel surcharge. The DOT mandate for coding such is clear (although no consumer knows how this works unless they work for the industry).

upload_2016-4-6_13-36-23.png

The issue here is whether the airline disclosed that that the amount was a CARRIER FEE and not tax.

If the carrier just said that the YQ was a tax then they were wrong.
No customer will decipher what YQ means. The airline must explain it is their FEE.
 
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Good to know, I guess, but is this relevant in any way to how the OP gets their money back? The process and their core issue is the same no matter what they call it.
The process is the same, but if it's a fuel surcharge then the OP could aptly mention that his cancellation is saving the airline fuel and that [per the DOT as of 2012] "when a cost component is described as a fuel surcharge … that amount must actually reflect a reasonable estimate of the per-passenger fuel costs incurred by the carrier"

If it's an "international surcharge" (which is what LH's spokesperson told BBC it is) then that line of reasoning may not work as well.
 
Jan 5, 2015
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I don't think the carrier ever referred to it as a tax. Let's remember what the OP said.

Prior to booking this trip with my Miles and More skymiles, I specifically asked a customer service representative if there are any restrictions I should be aware of with this booking and I was explicitly told, in writing… “Please note that for a Mileage Bargain you cannot rebook the flight. Additionally, if you cancel a Mileage Bargain you will be refunded the taxes but not the award miles.”
The OP asked if there were any restrictions. What they told him or her is that there were some, but they failed to disclose the additional restrictions - that the fee wouldn't be refunded.

The OP may have assumed the fee was a tax and therefore it would and should be refunded. In fact, it's not but he or she wasn't told the fee was non refundable, at least from what they've posted. That's a legitimate beef, and one they should pursue, via the mechanisms outlined above.

It really is irrelevant if the fee is for fuel, processing, international fees, or for an oom-pah band. They weren't told it was non refundable when they specifically asked of any restrictions on the booking.

Especially since it is, in fact, a fuel fee ('cause I'm not going to argue with a TA) then it should be refunded if the travel was cancelled with a decent amount of notice.
 

Neil Maley

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Fly is correct, Congress IS looking at dismantling the full fare disclosure. ASTA just spend a day on the hill visiting Congress people urging them not to drop it and to even tighten it up for ALL fees to be disclosed. The airlines spend millions lobbying to get rid of it.

If you want it to continue you should write to your confessional reps and lobby for the rules to stay in place
 
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Oh on more thing. Let's say the airline misrepresented YQ as taxes and you filed a complaint with the DOT; that agency can fine the airline and the money goes to the gov't. and NOT TO YOU. So this is another thing you need to keep in mind. The gov't. is not necessarily your friend.

Finally, it is not the letter about the refund that will prove if the carrier violated the rule; it is the disclosure or lack thereof (which happened much earlier) when they quoted the amount for collection that can get them in trouble.
 
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I want to add one more thing here. When the airline says you will get TAXES back and they don't tell you what the taxes are; and all you can see in your ticket is a huge amount in Taxes & Fees; is that fair? Shouldn't the airline tell you immediately what exactly you are getting back. They have all the records and data. This is quite inexcusable. When you know you are getting almost nothing back, then perhaps you will make a different decision.

This same issue is in the center of that mother's case from Oakland who DIYed their vacation to Europe. Had she been informed (disclosed) the amount she will get back, then she would probably make a different decision.