Q: I’m trying to get a refund for a canceled TAP Air Portugal flight during the pandemic. In March 2020, while I was in Lisbon, the authorities declared a pandemic. On April 4, TAP Air Portugal suspended flights to the US
I tried to change my flight, but TAP wouldn’t answer my phone. So I bought new tickets to fly home. When I checked in for my flight to the US, I spoke to a TAP agent at the airport who promised I would get a refund.
Instead, my online travel agency, Travelocity, gave me a flight credit. But now, the credit has expired and TAP will not respond to me or Travelocity regarding my refund. Also, my TAP account is blocked.
The last I heard from TAP is that since Travelocity issued the ticket, Travelocity “has the ability to process our refund and has been given instructions on how to do so.” I need your help to refund $1,881 from TAP or Travelocity – whichever company has the money. ─ Mary Dexter, Newton Centre, Massachusetts
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A: You should never have received a credit from TAP Air Portugal or Travelocity. Instead, they should have given you a full refund after canceling your return flight.
After the outbreak of COVID in 2020, TAP argued that the pandemic was an exceptional circumstance and that it could only offer a flight credit for canceled tickets. But EU regulations require an airline to offer either your choice of a full refund or a credit for a canceled flight, regardless of the reason for the cancellation. Eventually, authorities forced TAP to issue full refunds, but the airline took its time. It is nothing short of the biggest refund scandal in modern aviation (more information about refunds can be found at tucne.ws/1m50).
But somewhere between TAP and Travelocity, your tickets remained in the system as an expiring credit. It is very unusual – however, not unheard of – for an online agency to be affiliated with an airline that does not want to refund your money. So I thought something else might be going on.
I publish company contacts for TAP Air Portugal and Travelocity on my advocacy page at elliott.org/company-contacts/tap-air-portugal and elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia-customer-service-contacts (Expedia owns Travelocity . ) You could have sent a short and polite email to one of them, asking them to consider your refund request. I checked your paper trail and it looked like everyone was cooperating with your refund request – until they weren’t.
What can happen? I asked Travelocity. It turns out that Travelocity wanted to refund your tickets, but says it couldn’t. “When they tried to process, our agents learned that the card on file is expired,” a representative told me. “Our customer service team sent an email asking for new card details in August but have not heard from Mary.”
It is possible that Travelocity emails have gone to your spam folder. It’s always a good idea to check your spam folder occasionally and whitelist emails from companies you trust. Also, if you’re waiting for a refund and your card expires, notify the company of your new credit card information.
You received a full refund of $1,881 from Travelocity.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com