Travelers warned to use airline credits before they expire

MILFORD, Mass. — Nikki Fazo said she spent around 15 hours on the phone with JetBlue, trying to get her money back for plane tickets to Disney World she couldn’t use in April 2020.

“It’s just been extremely frustrating,” Fazo said. “I know there are a lot of other people in this situation.”

Fazo made travel reservations for her family in Feb. 2020. She cancelled her trip weeks later when the pandemic hit, but said JetBlue refused to give her a refund. Instead, Fazo said the airline gave her travel vouchers that she was never able to use. Those vouchers expired last march and Fazo said she’s out around $2,200.

“There’s no information sent to you to let you know your travel credits expire,” Fazo said.

The last two years have been riddled with airline cancellations, thousands of flights that never left the ground because of COVID-19 and airline staffing shortages. Congressional Democrats estimated in 2020 U.S. airlines were sitting on $10 billion in travel vouchers that should have been cash refunds from cancelled flights.

“A lot of folks just don’t know they have these vouchers,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor with Consumers’ Checkbook.

Brasler said there are three steps travelers should follow to avoiding getting left behind:

FIND OUT IF YOU HAVE AN UNUSED TRAVEL CREDIT

Brasler said to check with your airline if you’ve had a flight cancelled anytime in the last three years.

“Most people really don’t know when their stuff is going to expire,” Brasler said. “In some cases, airlines have extended these vouchers. Most airlines have extended them to the end of this year.”

ASK FOR A CASH REFUND

If you do have a voucher, ask the airline to give you a cash refund. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “a consumer is entitled to a refund if the airline cancelled a flight, regardless of the reason, and the consumer chooses not to travel.”

“You can still press your right for a refund…[if the airline] made a significant schedule change or cancelled your flight and gave you a voucher,” Brasler said.

BOOK A TRIP AND CHANGE LATER

If you’re not getting anywhere with the airline, Brasler said to book a trip with that voucher before it expires—that way it won’t go to waste.

“If you’re running up against an expiration date, if your credit is going to expire at the end of this year, go ahead and book a trip before it expires,” Brasler said. “You can always change it later.”

Senator Ed Markey said his office is flooded with calls from consumers frustrated they can’t get their money back from cancelled flights. Markey and two other Democratic senators sent a letter to the Dept. of Transportation asking for regulators to crack down on the airline industry’s cancellation and refund policies. Among the changes, Sen. Markey wants airlines to issue travel vouchers that don’t come with expiration dates.

“Consumers want their money back or at the least they want to decide when they’ll be able to use the voucher for a new flight. It shouldn’t be dictated by the airline,” Markey said.

Here are some helpful links for refund policies and travel vouchers:

Southwest: Refunds for Flight Reservations https://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/purchasing-and-refunds/refund-info-pol.html

Check Travel Funds: https://www.southwest.com/travel-funds/index.html?clk=REFUND-POLICY

Delta: How to Rebook Using an eCredit

https://www.delta.com/us/en/travel-planning-center/change-or-cancel-your-trip/how-to-rebook

Log In To Delta: https://www.delta.com/login/loginPage

American Airlines: Receipts and refunds

https://www.aa.com/i18n/customer-service/contact-american/receipts-and-refunds.jsp

How to find and redeem your travel credit: https://www.aa.com/i18n/customer-service/payment-options/travel-credit.jsp

United: Refund Policies

https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/booking/refund-policies.html

Search MY TRIPS: https://www.united.com/en/us/manageres/mytrips

jetBlue: How to Redeem Travel Certificiates

https://www.jetblue.com/help/travel-certificates

Manage trips: https://www.jetblue.com/manage-trips

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