Travel Troubleshooter: Air France drags heels on issuing fare refund

Published: Sunday, Apr. 6, 2014 - 12:00 am

I’m a graduate student at the University of Texas and I was recently awarded a fellowship to conduct research for two months in Ibadan, Nigeria. Believing that I would be departing from New York and then returning to Austin, Texas, I booked the trip in two legs. However, knowing that this could change, I reviewed the refund policies for both legs carefully to make sure the tickets were refundable.

My plans did change, and a round trip between Lagos, Nigeria, and Austin became more appropriate. I called Priceline, which had arranged the outbound leg, and my refund was approved within 15 minutes. But Air France, through which I arranged the return flight, was not so accommodating.

As per the instructions on its website, I sent an email to their “Customer First” program within 24 hours with my refund request and the appropriate information. I also called their Web support number to make certain everything was in order. It was at that point that they began to say that I had booked my ticket through the Nigerian Air France website, though I was given absolutely no indication that this might be the case as I purchased the ticket.

I was referred to the Air France Nigeria office, which I have attempted to contact numerous times by email, but I have never received a response. I have also contacted a number of other offices of Air France and its affiliates. I have been told on at least five occasions that my information has been forwarded to the Nigerian office, but – three months since I first submitted the refund request – I have still heard nothing from that office.

I have spent more than 24 hours on the telephone and have written many emails. Despite my efforts, I cannot even get a representative from the Air France refunds department to speak directly to me on the phone. The closest I have gotten is to reach the refunds department of its code share partner, Delta Air Lines, which can get Air France’s U.S. refunds department on the phone, but refuses to transfer me through or provide me with a contact number.

At stake here is $2,400, one-quarter of my fellowship award and the equivalent of one month’s income for my wife and I combined. I have been lied to, put off, and handled very rudely.

– Daniel Jean-Jacques, Austin, Texas

If you had a fully refundable airline ticket, then Air France should have credited to your card within a week of your request.

This business among you, Delta, Air France and the Nigeria office – from where I sit, it just looks like a delay tactic, although I’m sure there’s a perfectly good bureaucratic reason for it. The refund should have come quickly from the place you bought it. End of story.

If you ever run into a refund problem again, I wouldn’t waste my time on the phone. You can escalate your case to a manager at Air France by email. The email format is the first two letters of the first name and last name, all as one word, @airfrance.fr (so if I worked at Air France, my address would be chelliott@airfrance.fr).

I list Air France’s managers at http://elliott.org/contacts/air-france/.

I contacted Air France on your behalf and it promptly processed your refund.


Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email chris@elliott.org.

Read more articles by Christopher Elliott



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