How a Minneapolis woman fought for refund of significantly changed Delta flight

The summer of chaos in air travel is showing up in more than crowded airports and last-minute cancellations.

Airlines are changing schedules more often as they try to restore what’s left of pandemic-disrupted routes while also rapidly rebuilding flight crews and ground staff.

For Margie Simon, a Minneapolis publicist, the changes Delta Air Lines made to a trip she planned this fall led her to cancel it altogether. Then came a battle for a refund.

Her pursuit yields a cautionary tale of consumer rights at a tumultuous time for air travel.

“They said the ticket is simply not refundable,” Simon said. “I said that if it were the same itinerary as I purchased, I would agree with them. But when they made changes to my flights that I can’t use, I deserve a refund. “

In early June, Simon purchased a round-trip comfort class ticket on Delta with cash and miles for a trip to Calgary in September. The plan: to tour the natural wonders of Banff and Jasper National Park with her sister.

Then, Atlanta-based Delta changed both legs of the trip by several hours. When Simon tried to cancel, she couldn’t get through by phone. Via a chat exchange, a Delta representative offered to refund the taxes and miles she’d used But not the entire ticket price, she said. However, Delta’s contract of carriage includes a promise of a refund when there’s more than a two-hour change.

“In a nutshell, they offer really low-cost flights, nonrefundable. But within two weeks of the order date, they change the flight, and then change it again to times that won’t work. Then when you call to cancel and request a refund, they won’t do it, “Simon said.” I don’t see how they can say it’s nonrefundable when they’ve changed everything about the flight. “

After being contacted by the Star Tribune, a Delta spokeswoman acknowledged that Simon was right.

“Because the customer has requested a refund and the time change is greater than 120 minutes, we are able to grant a refund,” the spokeswoman said. “Our team is working to process this now on the customer’s behalf.”

Delta, the dominant carrier at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, should have immediately refunded Simon at her first request, but customer service agents vary in their knowledge and skills, said Kyle Potter, editor of Thrifty Traveler.

“My first bit of advice to anyone who gets a response you don’t like is to hang up and call again or start a new chat,” Potter said. “You might get a different answer if the first answer isn’t up to snuff. “

Two instances when airlines must refund customers is if the carrier cancels a flight or significantly changes a flight. Each airline determines when they refund tickets in the instances of significant changes and that’s outlined in their contract of carriage, the agreement the carrier makes with customers when they book a ticket, he said.

“If the economy hasn’t made these kinds of significant changes or cancellations, you may in some cases be out of luck,” Potter said. “That said, even some of these nonrefundable tickets can be canceled for a voucher, so long as you’re not buying the cheapest basic economy fares. “

Simon’s sister booked her ticket using credit card points that she was able to get refunded. Simon received a refund on Monday, but she said she isn’t satisfied.

“I’m concerned about how many other people they’re doing this to,” she said.

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