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Flight canceled due to COVID-19? Here's why it's so hard to get a refund.

With budgets growing tighter and tighter some are looking to get their money back for cancelled travel plans, but airlines do not seem to be making that very easy.

Editor's Note: The above video is about planning for travel after restrictions are lifted. 

Postponed weddings, canceled business trips and conventions, nixed family reunions --  many of our travel plans have been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions 

With budgets growing tighter and tighter some are looking to get some money back from airlines 

Airlines do not seem to be making that easy for passengers, despite the U.S. Department of Transportation issuing a notice pushing airlines to give “a prompt refund to passengers” when the carrier cancels the flight, makes a change to the flight or the passenger doesn’t want a travel credit.  

In the notice, issued in early April, the Department of Transportation says it’s gotten numerous complaints about passengers being denied refunds from airlines. 

“Because the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office will exercise its enforcement discretion and provide carriers with an opportunity to become compliant before taking further action,” the notice said.  

Are you eligible for a refund? 

The cancellation policies for five US major airlines, Delta, United, American, Alaska and Southwest, give travelers a few different options that do not involve actually giving their money back 

In most cases, airlines seem to be holding strong to their restrictions on non-refundable flights which are usually the cheapest fares. The airlines are offering travel vouchers, credits toward other flights, extended periods to use those credits and waiving fees for changing flights.  

To be eligible for a refund in many cases your flight had to be canceled or rescheduled by the airline. The various policies lay out a certain time frame your flight plans were changed in order to be eligible as well.  

United's refund policy says most fares are not able to be returned after 24 hours after purchase. That policy looks to be unchanged even during the current global health crisis restricting travel.

RELATED: Pearl Harbor survivor's 100th birthday party was canceled due to coronavirus outbreak

How do you get a refund if you're eligible? 

If you are eligible for a refund and do not want to rebook your flight for another time, your airline will most likely have a form to fill out online or a customer service hotline.   

Delta, for example, has an option to apply for a refund on refundable tickets online. Basic economy flights are nonrefundable, according to the form. 

If you choose to call prepare for a wait. Customers are waiting between one to two hours on the phone line, according to an NBC report.   

View the specific flight cancellation and change policies: 






To learn more about refund eligibility go to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website.  

RELATED: COVID-19 impacts vacation rental platforms, Vrbo and Airbnb