Hank Investigates: Payback Problems

(WHDH) — If an airline cancels your trip you’re entitled to a full refund, but these days that may be difficult to get. Hank Phillippi Ryan found an unprecedented number of travelers who say they simply cannot get back the money they’re owed. Why is it happening? And how can you solve your payback problems? Hank Investigates.

2020 started with friends Vicky and Gina planning a trip to Portugal for a major celebration!

Vicky just completed cancer treatment.

“It was finally over. I was finally getting my hair back,” Vicky says.

And Gina had a milestone birthday.

“I turned 40 and the only thing I asked for my husband was to let me go and not to complain he had to watch the kids,” Gina says.

In January they booked flights on TAP Air Portugal, excited to relax together on some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in the world.

“We were counting down the days,” Vicky says.

Then COVID hit and TAP canceled their flight.

Vicky still wanted to take a trip at a later date, so, the airline promised her a voucher.

“So I would be getting the voucher within 30 days,” Vicky said.

Gina wanted her money back and the airline promised her a refund.

“They were like, sure,” Gina says.

Two friends, two different solutions, one big problem. After waiting for months, neither has received anything from the airline.

And when they call…..

“It rings and then it goes right to a busy signal like as if the line doesn’t work anymore, Gina says.

(Vicky has a call on a speakerphone that says: “The number you have dialed is not in service.” )

“There you go,” Vicky says, referring to the recording she after she dialed.

Gina and Vicky aren’t the only ones on standby for their money.

Disappointed travelers caught in the COVID chaos have filed 56,000 refund complaints with the US Department of Transportation. More than 2400 of those involve TAP, a massive increase from last year.

“Is this a mess right now?” Hank asked.

“The airlines are losing tons and tons of money. They’re burning through millions of dollars in cash each day. Flights can’t take off. They’re not making revenue. No one’s booking tickets, and so they had to decide, what do we do about refunds?” Zach Griff, a travel expert with The Points Guy says.

We emailed TAP and got no response. When we tried calling, we waited on hold, and then the line went dead.

So what can anyone grounded by this situation do?

Dispute the charge on your credit card. And complain to the US DOT.

If that agency gets enough complaints about an airline, it can issue fines and even ban the company from operating in the US.

“So, when the feds get involved, the airlines listen?” Hank asked.

“Absolutely,” Zach says.

The US DOT tells us it’s contacting airlines with refund complaints and many travelers are starting to get their money back.

Gina and Vicky are still waiting.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Gina says.

“Please give people back their money. It’s their hard-earned money,” Vicky says.

If travelers file a complaint with the US DOT the law says the airline must respond to them in writing.

Click here for information on how to file a complaint with the US DOT.

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