If you purchased your tickets with a credit card, your most powerful ally against an airline may be your card issuer. According to Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, there are two ways to dispute the charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act: Assert a billing error or withhold payment.
Each has certain restrictions and procedures, which are detailed in this NCLC fact sheet: You must claim a billing error, in writing, within 60 days of getting the credit card bill, and you cannot have already paid the bill. In both cases, the credit card company has a legal obligation to investigate the claim and make a determination. And, Wu says, it can be worth trying even if 60 days have passed or you already paid your bill.
Case study: Nicholas Borninski, a commercial construction estimator, who booked two tickets to fly on KLM round-trip in March from Portland, Ore., to Warsaw, Poland.
Money at stake: $1608.12.
The road to the refund: After the flight was canceled on March 20, Borninski says he called KLM and asked for a refund but was told only vouchers were available.
That wasn’t good enough, for several reasons. “I don’t have a lot of money to throw around, I was seriously concerned about losing my job, and I had to go on paying my mortgage” he says. “And just the fact that someone was holding my money without giving me a choice really bothered me.”
So Borninski was insistent. Still, after a lot of back and forth, the best he was able to get was the offer of a partial refund—only $295 of the $830 he’d spent on each ticket. The rest, he was told, was taxes and fees and couldn’t be refunded.
At a stalemate, Borninski decided to initiate a dispute through his credit card company, Citi Visa. He was told that KLM would have almost two months to respond to the dispute. Borninski says he checked his account online almost daily. Finally, a credit for the full amount finally came through on the very last day, May 14.