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United Airline passenger fights to get money back from flight canceled during COVID pandemic

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Posted at 5:51 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 17:27:51-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.  — Veteran travelers Robert and Marsha Simon planned to take a romantic tour of Italy in April 2020 to celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary. But just days before takeoff, the couple canceled over concerns about COVID-19. Then, United Airlines grounded the flight.

United "initially indicated they would issue a credit or voucher that could be used within the year," Robert said. But the airline representative refused to issue a $1,200 refund, which is what Robert paid for the ticket and what he wanted.

Scott Keyes, the founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, points out that refunds are federally mandated when an airline scrubs a flight.

"They can offer you a voucher, but they also have to tell you that you are eligible for a refund and let you have one if you want one," Keyes said.

According to United's website, the airline adjusted its refund guidelines last June, two months after the Simons' planned trip. The company now offers fliers who "....experienced a significant United schedule disruption and were denied a refund" a chance to exchange their vouchers for cash.

United Airlines traded Robert's $1,200 voucher for a refund after we emailed their corporate office.

In another policy adjustment, United extended the expiration date on all vouchers issued in the last 20 months, making them valid through March 31, 2022. The extension was made "to give customers extra time to use for travel," a company spokesperson said.

Consumers holding vouchers for other airlines should ask for an extension before the expiration date.

"Ask for that six-month extension, ask for that one-year extension, there's a good chance the airlines will say yes," Keyes said.

If you were given a voucher but would prefer a refund, reach out to the airline and try to get one. If you get denied at first, try a few more times. The next customer service rep you speak with may grant the request.

If that doesn't work, file a complaint with federal regulators here.