TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I booked four Lufthansa tickets from Brussels to San Francisco through Kiwi.com in 2021. Lufthansa canceled the flight. Kiwi.com offered to request a refund. We have received two automated responses so far, but no refund.
I have not yet contacted Lufthansa directly, since Kiwi.com is our online travel agency. It’s been a year since Kiwi promised to help us get a refund. Can you help us get our $3,450 back, please?
— Nancy Plasschaert, Antwerp, Belgium
ANSWER: You should have received a refund almost immediately. Under Lufthansa’s general conditions, the legal contract between you and the airline, “in the event of a cancellation, rebooking or delay, a reimbursement of the fare may be possible under certain conditions.” And you met those conditions, which Kiwi.com verified.
Lufthansa would not refund you directly. It would send it to Kiwi.com, which would then pass the money along to you. So, what happened?
I asked Kiwi if the holdup was on the Lufthansa side or if the agency had experienced a delay. It did not respond.
Your case illustrates one of the drawbacks of using an online travel agency. The intermediary can protect you when things go wrong. But that third party can also cause delays, which would have happened to you, even if Lufthansa had refunded you immediately. Kiwi warned you that you might have to wait months for your money.
“Please be patient,” they said in an email. “We estimate that some refunds will take approximately three months. However, many carriers are now delaying their refund processes, and in some cases, the wait time might be longer.”
Why so long? Well, part of it may be related to the pandemic, although that excuse is getting a little old. By then, Lufthansa was close to two years into the pandemic and should have figured out a way to streamline its refunds.
Here’s what I would have done: After a month, I would have sent a brief, polite email to one of the executive contacts for Lufthansa that I publish on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/lufthansa-airlines/. Failing that, I would have filed a dispute with your credit card company (more information can be found at www.elliott.org/ultimate-consumer-guides-smart-travelers/the-complete-guide-to-chargebacks-and-winning-a-credit-card-dispute/). Your bank or credit card could have taken the money back, if you had shown them the email from Kiwi.com. A dispute department would have seen that promise as a credit memo and returned your money.
I contacted Kiwi on your behalf. A representative responded immediately and promised to look into your refund. But two weeks later, there was no sign of your money. So I reached out again. This time, a representative got in touch with you and refunded your $3,450.
“The process got delayed due to a still unprocessed refund from the airline’s side,” a Kiwi representative told me.
So, should you have booked a trip with Kiwi.com? We don’t get a lot of complaints about the company — so few that we don’t even list their company contacts on our advocacy site. But I noted that the company advertises itself as an agency that likes to “hack the system.” Maybe next time, it can hack the system and get you a faster refund.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.
(c) 2022 Christopher Elliott
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