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When must airlines refund money? Family struggles to get refunds after canceling flights due to COVID

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Posted at 6:47 PM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-03 22:41:13-04

A lot of us are having to change travel plans and cancel flights because of COVID-19 concerns, but so far, the airlines haven't changed their policy of no refunds on non-refundable tickets if you're the one canceling.

It's been months of frustration for Roy and Lisa Plisko. The Valley couple was all set to take their daughter Amanda to Reno for her club volleyball tournament. Like so many things, COVID-19 ended that. The tournament was canceled. The Pliskos say they got their money back from their hotel, but their frustration built up trying to get a refund for their 3 flights.

They bought American Airline seats through Cheaptickets.com with an American Express card. They say, dealing with all 3 companies became very confusing.

"They're pointing at each other and you can get nowhere," Lisa says.

As it stands, airlines only have to give credits if passengers cancel a flight. If the airline cancels, they must refund your money at the customer’s request. However, you could qualify for that refund another way.

Government rules say airlines must refund, "if the airline made significant schedule changes and/or significantly delays a flight and the passenger chooses not to travel."

The Department of Transportation didn't define what is considered "significant." But, if it happens to you, use it. They say they are looking at these on a, "case by case basis."

Also, you can push federal legislators to pass the "Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations" bill. It has been stuck in a senate committee since May. It requires full cash refunds during the emergency period, regardless of whether the air carrier or passengers canceled.

However, none of this helped the Pliskos, but Let Joe Know did. The team contacted American Airlines and explained the situation. American says it is not their policy because the family canceled on their own. However, they say based on the circumstances, and they didn't get specific, they would give a one-time refund.

The Pliskos got back the more than $700 that they spent on those 3 tickets.

If you must cancel a flight, experts say wait as long as possible. More time could mean airline canceling or changing more flights and money back for you.