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Re: I live near Niagara Falls , Canada, can't cross the border, what about our non-refundable trip M

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@chgoflyer wrote:

@dfwskier wrote:

@apm wrote:

dfwskier gave you the incorrect information it is not your choice to get a travel credit or refund, it depends on your ticket type, if it is a non refundable ticket you are only able to obtain a travel credit on future travel, sw has extended the dates to use that credit, but sw will NOT give you a refund. 

 

Stop spewing bad information apm. FEDERAL DOT REGULATIONS rule: if the airline cancels your flight you have the right to a refund.


 

Unfortunately, this isn't really true.

 

The DOT says that refunds are required when the airline cancels the flight if the air carrier is at fault. It's arguable that service reductions caused by the current global pandemic are not due to the airline's fault. And any caused by a governmental travel ban or closed airport certainly aren't. Meaning the DOT does not require refunds in these situations.

 

In general, the DOT advises that customers review the contract with the air carrier for specific policies.

 

Southwest's Contract of Carriage (pdf download) is the legal document that covers the transaction between passengers and the carrier. And the language of that document is written in such a way that there are multiple interpretations which allow Southwest to deny all refunds on non-refundable fares should they decide to do so.

 

First, the pertinent sections say that they can rebook you or issue a refund. Therefore, rebooking satisfies that requirement.

 

Secondly, the Force Majeure clauses allow Southwest to claim, should they want, that the current situation is out of their control, meaning refunds aren't required as they would be in normal situation. From the CoC:

 

Force Majeure Event means any event outside of Carrier’s control, including, without limitation, acts of God, and meteorological events, such as storms, rain, wind, fire, fog, flooding, earthquakes, haze, or volcanic eruption. It also includes, without limitation, government action, disturbances or potentially volatile international conditions, civil commotions, riots, embargoes, wars, or hostilities, whether actual, threatened, or reported, strikes, work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor related dispute involving or affecting Carrier’s service, mechanical difficulties by entities other than Carrier, Air Traffic Control, the inability to obtain fuel, airport gates, labor, or landing facilities for the flight in question or any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by Carrier.

 

That said...

 

This is a time of unprecedented uncertainty, so confusion from Southwest customer service -- with internal policies changing daily -- is not unexpected. We're seeing large numbers of customers being denied refunds in situations where previously a refund was allowed. It's possible that this is simply because of all the confusion. 

 

It's also possible, however, that there has been internal guidance disallowing all refunds of non-refundable fares. That Southwest has changed it's policies in light of the pandemic.

 

There has been no published announcement to this effect, but earlier information published here, that included statement of previous policies, has now been deleted and all references to refunds have been removed.

 

That now-deleted information stated that refunds would not be allowed in cases where the cancellation was caused by travel ban or airport closure (emphasis mine):

 

If we are forced to cancel a flight because airports are closed or if travel bans are put into place due to the extraordinary environment and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will work with each Customer to book flights at a later time or issue a travel credit for the value of the ticket. The only compensation we will offer in these instances—for non-refundable Wanna Get Away tickets—are Residual Travel Funds. These cancellations are not eligible for a cash refund. Current examples of where this policy applies are Grand Cayman, Aruba, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica—however, this list is likely to grow.

 

So... this could suggest that there's been a policy change, and refunds are no longer granted on non-refundable flights. Or, alternately, the deletion of this information could also indicate that external messaging now focuses on the travel funds expiration extension as a way of containing the amount of refund requests (although there's been no policy change).

 

It's even possible, perhaps likely, that Southwest management is still trying to figure out what they need to do at this juncture. Hence the confusion at the customer service level.

 

I'm certainly hoping that Southwest, who has always been more customer-friendly than any other air carrier, will continue to support their long-standing policies, and issue refunds on request when they cancel a flight. Given these unprecedented times however, it's possibly that this may no longer be feasible, and that refund disallowance is perhaps as an act of self-preservation.

 

Hopefully, we'll know more in the coming days.

 

 


But chgoflyer, in this case airlines ARE AT FAULT. The government HAS NOT ordered airlines to stop flying. Airspace has not been closed to airlines.

 

Absent something like that, your statement is immaterial to the current situation.

 

Airlines are cancelling flights   voluntarily -- in order to preserve cash and avoid bankruptcy. That IS NOT an act of god.

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Re: I live near Niagara Falls , Canada, can't cross the border, what about our non-refundable trip M

Top Contributor

@dfwskier wrote:

 


 


But chgoflyer, in this case airlines ARE AT FAULT. The government HAS NOT ordered airlines to stop flying. Airspace has not been closed to airlines.

 

Absent something like that, your statement is immaterial to the current situation.

 

Airlines are cancelling flights   voluntarily -- in order to preserve cash and avoid bankruptcy. That IS NOT an act of god.


 

That's certainly your interpretation. I suspect that airline's lawyers have a different one.

 

Read the Force Maejure clause from the CoC again, and I think you'll see it covers much more than just "acts of god," including the  all-encompassing statement "any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by Carrier."

 

😞

 

Force Majeure Event means any event outside of Carrier’s control, including, without limitation, acts of God, and meteorological events, such as storms, rain, wind, fire, fog, flooding, earthquakes, haze, or volcanic eruption. It also includes, without limitation, government action, disturbances or potentially volatile international conditions, civil commotions, riots, embargoes, wars, or hostilities, whether actual, threatened, or reported, strikes, work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor related dispute involving or affecting Carrier’s service, mechanical difficulties by entities other than Carrier, Air Traffic Control, the inability to obtain fuel, airport gates, labor, or landing facilities for the flight in question or any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by Carrier.

Re: I live near Niagara Falls , Canada, can't cross the border, what about our non-refundable trip M

Top Contributor

We'll, let the DOT decide.

 

It'll take just one complaint to DOT, which will morph into a class action lawsuit, which will morph into a big customer uprising, which will morph into huge bill from lawyers.

 

Questions:

 

1) If it was what you suggest, why weren't all flights cancelled?

 

2) The fact that some flights were cancelled and some weren't says the firm exercised discretion in the matter, That decision was not forced upon the airline by any event.

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Re: I live near Niagara Falls , Canada, can't cross the border, what about our non-refundable trip M

Top Contributor

@dfwskier wrote:

We'll, let the DOT decide.

 

It'll take just one complaint to DOT, which will morph into a class action lawsuit, which will morph into a big customer uprising, which will morph into huge bill from lawyers.

 

Questions:

 

1) If it was what you suggest, why weren't all flights cancelled?

 

2) The fact that some flights were cancelled and some weren't says the firm exercised discretion in the matter, That decision was not forced upon the airline by any event.


 

As I said, hopefully the DOT will provide some guidance to carriers soon.

 

Customers who have been denied a refund for non-refundable fares after Southwest cancelled the flight: Document everything. If your request is denied despite multiple requests, you can (and absolutely should) file a DOT consumer complaint:

 

File a Consumer Complaint

 

That said... here's what happens when you file a DOT complaint: 1) There is a record made of the type of complaint, allowing the DOT to keep an accounting of the types of complaints each carrier receives. 2) Your complaint is sent back to the airline for resolution. 3) The airline may reconsider, or they may stick to repeating their policy. 4) If the airline still refuses to settle in the customer's favor, the DOT basically says they are done and the complaint is marked as "closed."

 

It's still worth making a complaint, and the more complaints the better. One complaint means nothing, but many complaints raises the attention of the DOT to that specific issue. Ultimately, I suspect all action on this will be based on the guidance that's hopefully forthcoming for the DOT.

 

To address your questions: It doesn't matter. The flights that were cancelled, it could be claimed, were because of the situation that is out of the control of Southwest.