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TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

I’m still waiting on a refund from a canceled pandemic flight

Where is Erika Eng’s $994? She booked tickets from Washington, D.C., to Paris in 2020. British Airways canceled her flight, but never refunded the money.

A British Airways plane lands at Heathrow Airport.Dan Kitwood/Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Q. I booked two tickets to Paris on British Airways through Flight Network in 2020. British Airways canceled the flight because of the pandemic.

I have tried for years to get a refund from Flight Network, but after numerous calls and emails, I have not received the money. Can you help me?

ERIKA ENG, Arlington Heights, Ill.

A. You’re kidding! It’s been almost four years since the start of the pandemic, and you’re still waiting for your money back? That’s got to be a new record.

So, what went wrong? You booked your tickets through Flight Network, a Canadian online travel agency. (I publish the names, numbers, and email addresses of Flight Network’s executives on my consumer advocacy site.) Flight Network has some of the worst online reviews I’ve ever seen, but that’s not the reason for your delay.

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The pandemic was a disaster for airlines. They canceled flights and lost billions of dollars in revenue. Airlines were also slow to refund tickets when they canceled flights. In fact, some airlines insisted on giving customers flight credits until regulators got involved. And if you purchased your tickets through an online agency, it could take even longer, since the refund has to go through the travel agent. But that’s not the reason for the delay either.

A look at the paper trail between you and Flight Network shows that you eventually initiated a credit card dispute. This is a legitimate use of a dispute, as I note in my free guide on credit card chargebacks available on my consumer advocacy website. But it looks as if your dispute may have delayed your refund. (In one email, the agency asks for proof that you had dropped your dispute.)

British Airways was taking its time with getting your money back. It looks like Flight Network had your money, but couldn’t do anything because of the chargeback. I know this is going to sound like crazy advice, but in this particular case, you might have had your money sooner if you had waited just a little while longer.

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Does this mean that you should avoid a chargeback when an airline is slow to refund your purchase? No. Even with a potential delay, I still think that it’s worth pursuing a chargeback if an airline or online agency is dragging its feet. Had you done that and succeeded in your dispute, you might have had your money in 2020 instead of late 2023.

You could have appealed your case to one of the executives at Flight Network or British Airways. (I also publish the names of the airline’s executives on my site.) But knowing what I do about how refunds worked after the pandemic, I suspect that nothing would have moved the process along faster.

So, there you have it — a refund that took almost four years, but not a minute longer. I contacted Flight Network on your behalf. It confirmed that it had your refund ready and wired you the money for your canceled flight.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help.