Travel Troubleshooter

No, Lufthansa, I won’t wait eight months for a response

Q: I recently paid $912 for an airline ticket on Lufthansa.com. Less than 24 hours later, my itinerary changed. I booked another ticket and called Lufthansa for a refund on the first ticket. I was told it may take one to two billing cycles.

A month later, the credit didn’t appear on my Visa statement, so I contacted Lufthansa. I spoke with an agent, who promised that the refund would show up in seven to 10 days. Meanwhile, I lost track of the refund, until my year-end Visa statement showed that I was charged for two tickets and no refund was posted.

I called Lufthansa. After a long wait, the agent was able to trace the canceled flight and refund. A supervisor told me the refund would take seven to 10 days. I checked back two weeks later and was told the same thing: seven to 10 days.

Two weeks later — and almost three months after my recent contact — I phoned Lufthansa again. I was promised a “concrete” resolution within two days.

Two days passed, so I called Lufthansa again. A representative told me there would be no refund because the ticket was canceled outside of the 24-hour limit.

I asked Lufthansa to review my request and was told it would take eight months. I know I canceled the ticket within 24 hours. Can you help?

Rajiv Rastogi, Fairfax, Virginia

A: There’s absolutely no excuse for Lufthansa’s foot-dragging. If a representative told you that you’d get a refund, you should have received one. End of story.

But that’s not the end of your story, unfortunately.

I’ve seen customers get strung along — it happens all the time in the travel business — but rarely as much as you have been. Federal regulations say you’re owed a full refund on a ticket canceled within 24 hours (with certain exceptions). Federal regulations also say the airline must credit your account within seven business days. Lufthansa violated at least two regulations.

If the airline’s records show that you canceled after the 24-hour deadline, it should have told you immediately — not made you wait several months and then told you to wait another eight months for a review. I mean, eight months? I don’t even know what to say. That’s just bizarre.

The trick to fixing your problem is meticulous paperwork: a record of your reservation, a record of your cancellation and any associated cancellation numbers, ticket numbers or record locators. In reviewing your paper trail — the emails between you and the airline — it appears you had all of that. So what was the holdup? I hope it was just a matter of Lufthansa needing a little time to review your grievance. But eight months is way too long.

A brief, polite email to one of the Lufthansa customer-service managers I list on my site might have helped move things along: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/lufthansa-airlines/. But I think you’ve waited long enough.

A member of our advocacy team contacted Lufthansa on your behalf, and the airline offered a prompt refund.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org.

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