Right around a month ago I had one of the most frustrating calls (actually, set of calls) I’ve ever made to a travel provider. My United itinerary scheduled to return from Denmark on March 31 had both additional and canceled flight segments on the itinerary. Given that Air New Zealand wasn’t going to be operating the LHR-LAX fifth freedom long-haul, I figured this would surely entitle me to a complete refund per DOT policy.

Except it didn’t. At least that’s what United kept saying. Until they filled their coffers with taxpayer cash, that is. Now everyone gets a refund for a canceled award ticket. While I’m happy about the policy change, it shouldn’t have taken these lengths to get them to budge.

With that experience in the rear-view mirror, I drug my feet for weeks to make a second call.

Trying to Cancel a Ticket Booked Through Chase

One of the reasons I try not to use third-party travel providers is the finger-pointing that tends to happen. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of each one telling you talk to the other. Booking through Chase Travel has this risk, as you end up speaking with Expedia agents on the back end.

This was the situation in which I found myself after British Airways canceled my outbound flight. I suspected that the flight would not operate, so I waited as long as possible to call. The day after scheduled departure, I finally gave Chase Travel a call.

Their response was a bit frustrating. Yes, they saw that British Airways canceled the flight. However, I would need to call Finnair to ask for a refund for the British Airways cancellation, as it was sold as a codeshare. Then I’d need to call Chase/Expedia to process the refund. Okay then. More time investment ahead.

Calling Finnair

Tired of phone calls with airlines and hotels, I procrastinated calling Finnair. Fast-forward to yesterday, over three weeks later, when I finally called them up. Hopefully the enormous volume of phone calls would be a thing of the past and I’d be able to quickly speak with an agent.

This was a good assumption, as I was connected in under 5 minutes. And boy, was it an easy phone call. The agent saw that the flight had been canceled, and he added a note to the reservation detailing that it is eligible for a full refund. I received the confirmation email a few minutes later. Easy peasy.

Now it was time to call Chase Travel again.

Back to Chase I Go

The Chase agent asked for all the same information as the first time: credit card number I used to book the ticket, itinerary confirmation number, etc. I then explained the situation and the notes in the reservation. The agent placed me on hold to look into the issue.

The hold lasted about 10 minutes, longer than I’d expected. She said that she had the ticket number and itinerary, but was “having trouble accessing the information” on the reservation. Okay. She said she needed to reach out to Finnair directly. Which meant another, extended hold.

I just didn’t know how extended it would be. The 2-hour mark came and went on the phone, and I was still listening to the hold music. Finally, just about when I was going to throw in the towel, she came back on the line and apologized for the insane wait.

The result: bad and confusing news. Finnair could see the ticket, but they couldn’t pull up the amount of the refund. This ticket is half flown, so Chase couldn’t just fill in the total paid, I guess. Finnair is entirely willing to offer a refund, yet they can’t tell me how much. And Chase won’t issue it until Finnair does.

Which will take “up to 8 weeks” to resolve. Yikes. This might be Finnair’s way of holding onto cash as long as possible. Lufthansa is flat out asking to break EU regulations and not issue refunds. Other airlines have been given similar concessions, including Brazilian companies (even beyond airlines) that let them hold onto people’s money for a full year.

Edit: It appears that the sheer number of backlogged refund requests is the reason for the 8-week lag.

Will This Saga Conclude?

The Chase rep gave me her assurances that they would follow up and have things resolved as soon as possible, sending me an email once they could process the refund. I put the odds of that actually happening somewhere between 0 and nil, given the 8-week lag time. I’ll certainly need to call again.

Even though the pandemic situation is out of their control, the airlines are still not providing the promised service, and I’m glad Finnair didn’t push back at my refund request. Yet it’s simultaneously frustrating that they won’t/can’t provide it promptly.

The European Union did make it very clear to carriers that passengers are entitled to refunds for COVID-19 cancellations. This may just be as much of a “game” as Finnair is willing to play with passengers, or there is some other arcane reason why they honestly can’t calculate the refund amount. I’m not going to miss the ~$200 I’m owed, at least not over the course of two months.

Anyone else have an interesting cancellation experience with a European airline?