Q: Last year, I bought tickets to fly from San Francisco to Stockholm on Air France. I booked the tickets through Cook Travel, a travel agency in New York. I paid for the tickets with my credit card.
Air France canceled the flight because of the pandemic. Cook Travel promised me a full refund. That was one year ago. Cook Travel has asked me to be patient, but now they are not responding to my inquiries. I’ve tried to dispute the charges with Citibank, my credit card issuer, but a representative told me too much time has elapsed. I’ve tried to reach out to executives at Air France and Cook Travel but have gotten no response. Can you help me? -- Jim Shea, San Mateo, Calif.
A: If an airline cancels a flight, it has to send you a refund within seven business days. That’s not my rule; it’s the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/refunds). If I had my way, I’d make them refund it as quickly as they took your money, which is within a few seconds. So, for Air France to make you wait one year is outrageous.
Your travel agency should have fought for your refund. After all, aren’t travel agents supposed to represent you? And how about your credit card? Citibank could have easily accepted your dispute. The Fair Credit Billing Act, the law that protects credit card customers, does not prevent your bank or credit card issuer from getting involved in a dispute, even if it’s been longer than 90 days. Citibank could have done better.
Based on the correspondence between you, Cook Travel and the airline, here’s what happened to your money. Air France tried to refund the ticket directly to your credit card. For some reason, that failed. Then, an Air France representative told you that your travel agent had the money. The travel agency says it does not have the refund. It appears that they just pointed the finger at each other until they lost interest in resolving your case.
Perhaps you could have reached out to someone higher up at Air France to resolve this. I list names, numbers and email addresses of the Air France executives on my consumer advocacy website at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/air-france/.
I contacted Cook Travel. A representative looked into your refund and verified that Air France had tried to send the money. You checked with your bank, which contradicted the Air France claim. According to your bank, Air France did not attempt to transfer money to your account. It’s possible that the airline had the wrong account number or routing number. Air France agreed to cancel the original transfer request and create a new one, which it did. You’ve received a full refund.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or firstname.lastname@example.org.