Back in March, I jumped on an incredible airfare deal which offered me the opportunity to fulfill one of my long-standing aviation geek dreams — to fly in Air France’s ultra-luxury La Première first class. For less than $500, I was able to secure a one-way ticket from Algiers, Algeria to Houston, Texas.
Although the flights were to be operated by Air France, they were marketed and sold by Delta Air Lines. The flights were Delta codeshares issued on Delta’s 006 ticket stock. The charge to my credit card was made by Delta Air Lines in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a Delta ticket.
One week after I had purchased the ticket, the bean counters at the Delta/Air France/KLM joint venture decided not to honor the fare. I was downgraded to business class and given the choice to accept the ticket change or contact Delta for a refund.
On April 7th, I tweeted and called Delta for a refund only to be told that I would have to contact Air France instead. That was a lie, and it took me another four days of tweets, calls and hours spent on hold to find an agent that would process the refund. That assistance came on April 11th, but only after I had threatened to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which had warned airlines to process refunds quickly just one week earlier.
Delta’s e-mail confirmation, sent on April 11th, stated that “due to extremely high volume related to coronavirus and government-issued travel guidance, please allow up to 21 business days” for the refund to be issued. I believed that too long to wait, but accepted it nonetheless. By May 11th at the latest, my money would be returned — or so I thought.
Delta failed to refund my airfare by the promised date, and on May 12th the DOT released a document restating its position on refunds to passengers for cancelled or altered flights. According to the document:
Airlines and ticket agents are required to make refunds promptly. For airlines, prompt is defined as being within 7 business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash or check.
On May 13th, I reached out to Delta on Twitter to request an update on the status of my refund. They did not respond. I tried twice more, on May 16th and 19th, and was ignored on both occasions.
Frustrated by Delta’s behavior, I did what every passenger who has waited more than 7 business days for a refund should do — initiated a chargeback with the credit card issuer and filed a complaint with the DOT.
If a business owes you money — in this case, for a cancelled airline ticket — and has failed to issue a refund in accordance with their policies and federal regulation, consumers should dispute the charge with their bank. This morning, I logged-in to my credit card account and filed a dispute against the Delta Air Lines transaction from March. I described the issue and provided supporting documentation, such as Delta’s email stating my refund would be processed within 21 business days. My credit card issuer will now review the complaint and, if they find that the airline owes me the money (they do), they will issue a chargeback — reversing the charge on my account and reclaiming the money from the merchant.
The key to a successful chargeback is that you must demonstrate an attempt to resolve the matter with the seller. I provided evidence of Delta’s original promise of refund, as well as documentation of the repeated requests for a status update which were ignored. My chargeback case is strong, and the bank has already placed a temporary/pending credit on my account.
Given that Delta Air Lines has acted in bad faith, intentionally delaying refunds for its own benefit and to maintain liquidity, I filed a DOT complaint to encourage regulatory enforcement action.
In the midst of widespread economic hardship, airline passengers should not be forced to grant Delta or any other airline an interest-free loan. I won’t stand for it and neither should you.