LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – With thousands of cancelled flights, airlines are strapped for cash – and some passengers are having trouble getting refunds.

Betty Jackson of Inglewood was supposed to fly to New York City with a group of friends at the end of March. She paid more than $400 for her round-trip JetBlue flight to JFK.

But then “the city went on a complete shutdown,” Jackson said. “The flight never took off.”

With the flight cancelled, Jackson asked JetBlue for her money back. Instead, she says they refunded her $58 baggage free and offered her a flight voucher.

“This was a group trip,” she said. “I don’t want to travel alone, I am sixty-eight and I do not want to travel alone.”

Scott Keyes, the founder of ScottsCheapFlights.com, says when an airline cancels your flight, you are owed a cash refund.

The problem with Jackson’s refund is that she called to cancel her reservation before the airline cancelled the flight.

“If the airline is the one that cancels the flight, then you are owed a cash refund,” Keyes said. “If you voluntarily cancel it, then you will only get a travel voucher.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines are obligated to provide a “prompt refund” when the carrier cancels the scheduled flight or makes a “significant schedule change.”

“Typically if it’s more than two hours, that’s almost always significant enough, or if you took a nonstop flight and they switched you to a connecting flight,” said Keyes.

The Department of Transportation was flooded with 20,000 airline passenger complaints in April, roughly 13 times the norm.

Keyes says there are three things passengers can do to fight back: call back multiple times, don’t take no for an answer, and dispute the charge with your credit card company.

JetBlue says Betty would have gotten a full refund if she hadn’t cancelled before they did. The company says its vouchers are good for two years – even with non-refundable tickets – and that the company follows all federal guidelines.


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