Consumer advocate groups say they’re seeing ‘significant increase’ in complaints about airline refund policies during coronavirus pandemic

Consumer advocate say they’re seeing ‘significant increase’ in complaints about airline refunds

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As more and more people cancel summer travel plans, some are running into issues getting a full refund.

They’re reaching out to 19 News for help.

Consumer advocates report a significant increase in the number of complaints right now related to the travel industry.

One of them comes from a Northeast Ohio family trying to cancel an upcoming flight out of Cleveland Hopkins.

Amanda Williamson qualified to compete in a national gymnastics meet this year.

Her mother Linda was supposed to fly out to California with her in June, until the event got completely cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My daughter is very upset, because it’s been one activity after another’s been cancelled,” Linda said.

Linda and her husband Ron went about cancelling the travel plans they’d made using miles earned on United Airlines.

“Being that we booked it on frequent flyer miles, we thought it’s a real easy fix,” Ron said.

But it hasn’t been easy. The airline told them they’d have to pay a fee to have the miles put back into their account for later use.

“They want to charge me $75 a ticket,” Linda said.

The only other option according to the airline is to exchange the flight for a later date.

“See, that’s the problem. When you call the airlines, they want to know, ‘What do you want to change it to?’ We don’t have dates,” Linda said.

The local Better Business Bureau says it is seeing a significant increase in complaints related to travel industries because of this unprecedented pandemic.

A spokesperson with the US Department of Transportation tells 19 News they are also reviewing several consumer complaints about airline refund policies during this crisis. If you’d like to file a complaint you can still do so on their website.

“As individuals, we’re kind of powerless to do anything,” Ron said.

United Airlines replied to our emails late Monday afternoon.

A spokesperson said, “At this time, United is waiving redeposit fees for MileagePlus award travel scheduled to begin before May 31. Customers continue to have the flexibility to change award travel without incurring a fee, or cancel award travel and retain the value of their ticket as a credit towards future travel.”

Since the Robinson’s travel is on June 28th, they do not qualify to have their redeposit fees waived.

It is worth noting that the Robinsons had booked their flight out to California on Southwest.

“They immediately credited the account with the miles,” Ron said.

It's just the flight back on United that they are having trouble getting refunded.

“Why can’t they just put it back in the account? I don’t understand,” Linda said.

“Some companies are truly doing the right thing. I’d say a lot of them are,” Ron said. “United Airlines is being incredibly greedy. It’s greed and gouging at it’s best.”

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