Question: 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 I would be departing from New York and then returning to Austin, Texas, I booked the trip in two legs. However, knowing 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 e-mail to its "Customer First" program within 24 hours with my refund request and the appropriate information. I also called its Web support number to make certain everything was in order. It was at that point that Air France 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, 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 submitted the refund request I have still heard nothing from that office.
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 roughly $2,400. I have been lied to, put off, and handled very rudely. After three months, I feel that I have gotten nowhere.
Answer: If you had a fully refundable airline ticket, then Air France should have credited to 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.
This business between you, Delta, Air France, and the Nigeria office - from where I sit, it just looks like a delaying 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.
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.
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 e-mail. I list Air France's managers on my site: http://elliott.org/contacts/air-france/.
I contacted Air France on your behalf and it promptly processed your refund.