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Why do airlines make it so difficult to get your money back?

AuthorThe AirHelper

A few months ago, a friend of mine had the misfortune of having her luggage delayed on a connecting flight.

The issue: the airline to which she was connecting thought the airline from which she was connecting would have been too late for her to make the connection. It’s as confusing as it sounds.

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What actually happened: her first flight did get in late but her second flight was also delayed, for over 2 hours. Her dilemma didn’t end there. She got to New York’s JFK two hours later than expected (and I had to wait there for her) and when she got here the airline had no idea where her luggage was located.

First we got directed to an airline representative, then we got directed to a customer representative. That customer service representative then gave us forms to fill out now and forms to fill out later. Something about that just felt very medical to me for some reason, I’m not sure why. Then she explained what we had to do. This particular representative was very good at the verbal fine print. What that means is she was very good at making the less important things stick and the more important things she said had a way of getting to just slide into the conversation ever so casually. I had a lot of follow-up questions. That was how I found out that I had to provide the exact boarding pass, all our receipts and that there was no way else to get our money back other than physically mailing all these documents to the airline’s office in some mystical location. I was not looking forward to this.

But at least we were promised we’d receive the luggage within the next few days….

As you may have already guessed. This did not happen. We got the luggage 5 days and about 8 calls to the airline later. After she left I was tasked with trying to get our money back. I’ll let you imagine how that went.

This was my first experience trying to navigate airline “bureaucracy” as I like to call it. This is the process by which an organization makes it incredibly difficult to obtain what you deserve by forcing you to jump through as many hoops as possible. This includes loads of paperwork, several customer service agents, and website forms hidden in the most weird places as to get us to just throw our hands up and say, well…screw it! There is even a name for it, Breakage. This is money that the airlines pocket simply because they know it’s too much work for the consumer to fight for!

If you’ve ever had to endure this you know that you may end up actually crying real tears or using words you are not so proud of. At the end of the experience you may find that you’ve worked up a sweat after punching the refresh key too many times or you might have even thrown your phone at the wall after losing the customer service agent you waited for almost an hour to connect with.

When it comes to flight delays, the reality is no different. As I saw with my experience with lost luggage the hoops are many. I, for example, had to mail the letter for my friend, along with all the original receipts for her replacement purchases. She lives in Europe so mailing important documents would have been pricey, tedious and annoying for her. This was bothersome and I was only able to figure out what exactly I needed to send the airline after several calls to the airline and too many minutes of holding.

If you’re looking for some extra assistance or you’ve been in a similar situation learning about your rights as a passenger can go a long way to making the process just a bit more bearable.


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