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Where’s the refund from my canceled Lufthansa flight?

When Lufthansa cancels Michelle Alexander’s flight from Prague to Los Angeles, it promises her a full refund. Nine months later, she still doesn’t have the money.

Lufthansa Boeing 747.
Lufthansa Boeing 747.NurPhoto/Photographer: NurPhoto/NurPhoto

Q. Last year, I booked airline tickets from Prague to Los Angeles through SkyLux, an online ticket broker. After Lufthansa canceled my flight at the last minute, a SkyLux agent promised that the company had refunded my money, but that I needed to pay for a new ticket.

The money had not been refunded. I paid for two tickets. The second one, needless to say, was more expensive than the first. I’ve been calling and e-mailing for nine months asking to be refunded, still nothing! When I asked for a manager, they would not give me anyone else to speak with aside from the original booking agent. Can you help me get a refund?

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MICHELLE ALEXANDER, Los Angeles

A. I’m sorry that SkyLux didn’t refund your ticket as promised. It’s hard to describe the chaos that followed the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines canceled flights. Travel agencies tried to rebook the tickets or secure refunds. The situation left customers confused and irritated.

Nine months is way too long to wait for a refund, of course. It looks as if Lufthansa sent your refund to SkyLux. But somehow, the money didn’t make it to you. Then you contacted the online ticket broker, and there was some confusion about who had the money. Finally, you decided to dispute your charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act. SkyLux fought the dispute and won.

So what’s going on here? First, it looks like the online agency and your airline got its wires crossed. No one knew who had your money. For the record, when an airline cancels your flight, you’re owed a full refund within seven business days. Lufthansa should have sent the refund to your agent, and your agent would have forwarded the money to you.

The wheels turned slowly after the outbreak. The pressure of hundreds of thousands of refunds made the gears of the airline refund machine grind to a halt. Certainly, some unscrupulous companies used the pandemic as an excuse to hold on to your money, giving them an interest-free microloan. But most businesses were just overwhelmed.

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Your credit card dispute didn’t help, unfortunately. The dispute is a last resort when all negotiations and appeals have failed. And believe it or not, SkyLux was still working on your refund request. So when it received your chargeback, it fought the chargeback and won.

Before the dispute, you might have appealed to a manager at SkyLux. I publish the names, numbers and e-mail addresses of the customer service managers at SkyLux on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/skylux-travel-customer-service-contacts/.

It looks as if your credit card company tried to contact SkyLux, but it didn’t always respond (except to dispute the charges). I find it strange that your credit card issuer would side with the ticket broker, anyway. It might have done so because you were past the 60-day limit to dispute your charges. But a bank may still choose to help you under certain circumstances.

Also, it looks like Lufthansa charged you a $250 cancellation fee even though the airline canceled your flight. I’d like to think that was a pandemic error, too.

I contacted SkyLux, and it sent you 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 chris@elliott.org.

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