Flight cancellation
June 19, 2009 11:26 AM   Subscribe

[airline flight filter] If you cancel a flight, but are not refunded, do you still have a legal right to the seat?

Asking for a friend.
My friend thought she was not going to be able to fly as she had not received the necessary visa a day before traveling (today). So she contacted the airline to see if she could get a refund, and canceled her flight. However, she received no refund, and since then received her visa.

Now, she wants to travel but the airline said that as she canceled her flight she cannot travel. Which is true, but they did not return any money, so is she entitled to travel? Are there any negotiation techniques that would help?

(she's currently on her way to the airport to see if she can get on a plane, and I thought I would ask to see if the hive-mind has any suggestions. She has email access. Thanks)
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Legal right? Doubt it. (But this would all be in the conditions of carriage on her ticket.)
Just because they didn't refund her money doesn't mean they haven't already re-sold her seat - which she canceled. Knowing the airline might help - someone here might then have specific advice.
posted by meerkatty at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: It's Air France
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:33 AM on June 19, 2009

If she canceled her flight, whoever she talked to should have been given her options. I can't tell by your post if she canceled this flight 24 hours ago or 24 days ago. Usually if you cancel the flight, you can rebook the ticket for another date and pay a change of date fee (around $200, depending on the airline), but that depends on the fare basis of her ticket (if she got a really really cheap ticket, rules might be a lot more stringent cancellation wise.)

Her best bet is to go to the airport, be very polite and nice to the ticketing agent, explain the situation. If that doesn't work, ask for a supervisor, explain again. At the very least, she should be able to use the ticket within a year as long as she pays the penalty.

If she canceled the ticket and is supposed to get a refund, that may take weeks, so she should not expect to see the money credited to her credit card immediately.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:41 AM on June 19, 2009

I'm not sure if you mean she received no refund yet (i.e. it's on the way) or received no refund period (i.e. it's a no refund situation). In any case cancelling pretty much says "I am not planning to fly on this ticket" and means that no you have no right to your seat in my experience as a longtime traveller but no-time lawyer. I usually only fly in the US as well.
posted by jessamyn at 11:42 AM on June 19, 2009

Is this a case where the cancellation fee is greater than the ticket price?
posted by smackfu at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: To clarify, she will receive no refund at all from the airline. Which was why I was curious about how that can legally work, as the airline can basically sell the seat a second time.

And it was not a low-cost flight - it is a transatlantic one departing from the US.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2009

Airline tickets are more or less entirely covered by contract law; if you are asking whether your friend has legal rights - like some airline ticket bill of rights - then the answer is, nothing comes to mind that will help her. You really have to look at the ticket contract to determine the terms.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:05 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Womble - Cost is not the issue here - people on the same flights pay a huge range of pricing. A person sitting in seat 34 B could have paid 3 times the amount as the person sitting in 34A.

It all depends on the FARE BASIS for the ticket she bought, which in turn stipulates the rules for that ticket. It's all a complicated game that the airlines play to stay somewhat profitable. For example, if your friend cancelled the ticket 24 hours before the flight, it is highly unlikely the seat will be sold. Even IF a person does call to book a last minute seat on that same flight, he/she won't know whether the price will be huge discount for the last minute booking or a huge inflated amount for the privilege of getting on the plane at the last minute.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:19 PM on June 19, 2009

I'd suggest she contact the airline again to see if she can get some sort of credit, but I would imagine she's out of luck.

If she received no refund, than likely she purchased a ticket that had in its terms that she was locking in a particular fare by giving up the ability to get a refund should her plans change. I recently booked a hotel room that was nonrefundable at a lower rate that had the same terms.

Ideally, if she could change her past actions, she would have not canceled when she realized she would not get a refund. She gained nothing from notifying them of a cancellation -- she could have just not shown up and it would have had the same monetary impact.
posted by mikeh at 1:08 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Many things are sold "no exchanges or refunds"--just because it is an airline ticket, you do not have special rights to an exchange or refund if you purchase the ticket "no exchanges or refunds". It never hurts to ask the merchant, but asserting a right to something never gets you very far.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:17 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the thoughtful answers. I just got a message from her saying that she had managed to get on a flight but I'm not sure how it worked out yet (I can post if people are interested).
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 1:40 PM on June 19, 2009

Maybe this is a dumb question but if they weren't going to give her a refund of any sort why did she bother cancelling?
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Generally, if you buy the ticket from the airline for a transatlantic flight they will work with you. If you buy it from Travelocity, etc, you are SOL.
posted by JJ86 at 2:04 PM on June 19, 2009

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