DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I recently booked a ticket on AeroMexico from Sacramento, California, to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with two stops in Mexico.
The airline canceled my flight three weeks later and rebooked me on a different flight. The new itinerary included a 10-hour stopover and no longer met my needs, so I asked for a refund.
I called AeroMexico three times to ask for my money back. Although the representatives were very friendly, they were unable to help me. When I asked for a supervisor, there was never one available.
AeroMexico has given me two options: Either I accept a flight voucher, or I take the new flight. But I thought when an airline cancels a flight or makes substantial changes to someone’s itinerary, I’m entitled to a full refund, even for nonrefundable tickets. Can you help me?
— Patrizia Azzellini, Sacramento, California
ANSWER: You’re correct; if an airline cancels your flight, you get a refund. That’s a Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation. And, not only that, the airline must reimburse you within a week if you paid by credit card, which you did.
Ah, but wait — does that apply to an AeroMexico flight to Mexico City? As a matter of fact, it does. DOT regulations affect any commercial aircraft operating in the United States, regardless of destination.
Airlines would prefer you accept their new flights or a ticket credit, and you certainly can do that if you want. But you don’t have to. We had a problem with airlines pushing vouchers on passengers during the pandemic. Airlines said they couldn’t offer refunds because of “extraordinary” circumstances. But the DOT would not allow that and reminded airlines that they were required to offer refunds.
It looks like you tried to call AeroMexico to resolve this. Then, you sent a formal request in writing — first through the airline’s website and then to one of the executive contacts at AeroMexico that I publish on my consumer advocacy website. The airline ignored you.
Asking for a supervisor in a phone call rarely works. Chances are, they will pass you off to a colleague pretending to be a supervisor and tell you “no” in a hundred different ways.
You also told an agent that you would take legal action against AeroMexico if you didn’t get a refund. I understand your frustration, but if you do that, your complaint may get routed to the airline’s legal department, which is often a dead end. I have some more tips on my site for resolving an airline complaint. Remaining calm and polite and reminding the airline of its requirements under the law would have been more effective than threatening a lawsuit.
You also could have filed a complaint with the DOT. The agency would have contacted AeroMexico, and I’m sure you would have received a refund quickly.
But none of that was necessary. I reached out to the airline on your behalf, and it agreed to refund your ticket.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.
(c) 2023 Christopher Elliott
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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