Q: I’m a graduate student at the University of Texas, and I was awarded a fellowship to conduct research in Ibadan, Nigeria. Believing that I would be departing from New York and returning to Austin, Texas, I booked the trip in two legs. Knowing that this could change, I reviewed the refund policies 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 e-mail 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 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 e-mail. 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 am contacting you out of sheer desperation. I have been lied to, put off and handled very rudely. After three months, I have gotten nowhere.
A: If you had a fully refundable airline ticket, Air France should have credited your card within a week of your request. That’s not just me saying it; there’s a Transportation Department rule that says refunds must be made within seven business days (www.startribune.com/a2570).
This business between you, Delta, Air France and the Nigeria office, from where I sit, just looks like a delay tactic. The refund should have come quickly from the place you bought it. End of story.
I’m willing to give Air France the benefit of the doubt. After all, even the Transportation Department notes that sometimes it can take one or two credit card billing cycles before your refund shows up. I’d like to think that’s what happened here.
I contacted Air France on your behalf and it promptly processed your refund.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at email@example.com.