Filing a DOT complaint when an airline won’t refund a canceled flight

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Right now we are experiencing a world were airline flights are being canceled left and right — especially international flights. Normally, when an airline cancels a flight and cannot reschedule a passenger for a flight that is deemed within a reasonable time period, the passenger is eligible to receive a full refund. Unfortunately though, with the current Coronavirus situation, many airlines are not adhering to that policy.

Even today, the U.S. Department of Transportation is trying to help consumers in every way they can and put out another notice to airlines that they are still required to give passengers a full refund and not a voucher. They stated that:

U.S. and foreign airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier. The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions).

Despite this ruling from both the DOT and the EU, many airlines that fly within the US and between the US and Europe are not adhering to the law. Instead, they are adamant that passengers can only receive a voucher. I personally have had many interactions with TAP Air, for example, and they are not folding. No matter who I speak to at the airline and how many times I re-iterate the policies, they don’t care. A voucher is the only refund policy — no exception.

Since TAP Air, and other airlines, are not helping their customers, one way to file a complaint is with the DOT directly. I just recently did this for the TAP Air flight and it was an incredibly seamless process. One thing to note is that the DOT cannot actually issue you a refund, but the more complaints filed, the higher chances you have for the airline to cave.

To file a DOT complaint

The easiest way to file a complaint, is to do so directly on the U.S. Department of Transportation site. You’ll need to include your personal information, such as name, phone number, address, etc. as well as your flight information. Make sure to include as much information as possible as well as uploading screen shots showing that your flight is canceled. I found the complaint form to be very self explanatory.

Even though the DOT is receiving many complaints, I received a personal email back from the DOT within about 36 hours. I was given a case number and was told that they’d forward my complaint to the airline. In the letter I was told that airlines are required to acknowledge that they received the complaint within 30 days and provide a response within 60 days.

While this by no means guarantees that I’ll receive a refund back to my credit card, it helps that the DOT could pursue enforcement action if they receive enough complaints. Although no guarantees, it is worth submitting a DOT complaint as it takes just a few minutes.

If you aren’t getting anywhere with the airline, the two suggestions I have is to file a DOT complaint and a chargeback claim with your credit card.

Comment below with your experience in receiving a full refund.

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I’m dealing with this with TAP Portugal and filed a DOT complaint as well Also disputed the charge with my credit card came. The extra frustrating thing is that TAP Portugal told me twice on the phone that I would get a refund and even sent an email that the refund was processing before they abruptly switched their policy and decided to only issue vouchers. I’ll never fly them again after this (if they even still exist).


How was it going finally? Would you like to share any updates?

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