Q: I have been struggling to get feedback from Wow Air about my refund for a flight it canceled from Paris to Reykjavik. Wow was supposed to book me the next day but didn’t have any availability. I asked for a refund.
I also submitted a claim through its website. I never received a confirmation e-mail or a claim number. I called Wow four times and spent more than three hours on hold. They were international phone calls, which were expensive.
The receipt that Wow gave me at the airport after canceling my flight showed the refund due as $537. The fine print at the bottom of the booking invoice to contact Wow’s customer service was the phone number for Mokulele Airlines, a Hawaiian airline.
I really need my reimbursement so I can pay bills and get back on track. I didn’t go to France for a vacation but for an emergency. I’m not asking for the money I paid for the portion of the flight that Wow did not honor, and potentially the indemnity governed by EU 261, the European airline consumer protection regulation. Can you help me?
A: Wow again? Yours is just the latest in a steady stream of Wow Air cases. Maybe my columns should be required reading before you book a ticket with Wow (which doesn’t serve Minneapolis-St. Paul).
Wow Air should have refunded your ticket and then some. Under EU 261, the European regulation you cited, you’re entitled to compensation for your delay.
It looks as if the airline promised you a refund within six weeks. But the money never showed up in your account. An airline has up to six weeks to send the money to your credit card — that’s a generous amount of time — but it might not show up on your credit card for two to three billing cycles. A refund that’s initiated by Wow today might take 12 weeks to appear in your account.
I know. It’s ridiculous.
There are a few ways you could have saved time. First, the four phone calls and three hours on the phone were entirely avoidable. Calling to check on a refund is not advisable. You might get an answer after being transferred to several departments, but any verbal assurances are worthless. You need written evidence: a cancellation number, a debit memo, anything that verifies that your money is on its way. I’ve seen customers use this information to get a refund when they file a credit card chargeback.
Armed with that info, you then can appeal your case to one of the Wow Air executive contacts listed on my consumer-advocacy site, elliott.org. By the way, I also have the correct phone numbers for the airline. You’re welcome, Mokulele Airlines.
I contacted Wow. It sent you the promised refund and the compensation it owed you under European law.
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.