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Weather issues recently caused a flight issue (8 - 12 inches of snow were expected, even though no one knew when it would happen), where the reps at the major flight company didn't know if the flight would be cancelled or not the next day and suggested waiting.

On top of that the website of the airline was down throughout the evening as I tried to check it. Due to work, I had to return to my home location immediately and several colleagues suggested taking a rental car and not waiting for the next morning, as a flight delay (or cancellation) would keep me in the city longer than what we wanted. When I asked for a reimbursement, the flight company refused, saying that the flight did take off on time.

Note: this is all domestic to the USA.

  1. Obviously, there's no way to reconcile this on the flight company's end, other than I'll never do business with them again. However, has anyone ever handled a dispute like this through their credit card (like a merchant/merchandise dispute) and what does the process typically involve?
  2. I definitely made some poor weather, flight and card assumptions (I am a newb to flying, though I will be flying much more so this is a great learning lesson of what not to do), so I'm curious if there are credit cards that handle disputes like this when merchants refuse, or credit cards with strong reputations that do this. As I've learned, if it's a crunch issue, where I have to be back by a certain time and a flight company can't assure me that they will leave (and they won't refund because they can't make that promise), then the only way to resolve this dispute would be through the payment issuer.
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What country are you in? You're using the words "flight company", is this a major airline or a smaller, private service? –  JoeTaxpayer Feb 22 '13 at 14:48
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I'm not sure I understand your question. You booked a flight. The flight took off as scheduled. You chose not to be on the flight, because you weren't certain it was going to take off. Now you want the airline company to reimburse you? On what grounds? –  ChrisInEdmonton Feb 22 '13 at 15:32
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Could you not of received a refund or partial refund for the ticket before you left? Did you explain to them that you were cancelling before or only after the fact? –  Eric U. Feb 22 '13 at 16:36
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Did you try calling the airline or assume the website was the only possible way to find out if the flight was going to go out? –  JohnFx Feb 22 '13 at 23:33
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This is a weather issue--I doubt the airline itself knew if the flight was going to be able to get out or not. Thus I wouldn't blame them for not knowing. –  Loren Pechtel Feb 23 '13 at 4:11

3 Answers 3

You have no grounds for a refund. The flight took off on time, and you chose not to be on board. The fact that the airline could not guarantee ahead of time that the flight would leave on time is not relevant.

You can certainly try to dispute the charge with the airline, and it sounds like you have done so. The airline correctly indicates that your dispute is unfounded. You can call up your credit card company and explain the situation, and they may accept your dispute. However, I am not aware of any credit card that would reimburse you (that is, issue a chargeback) in this situation.

I'm not trying to be unsympathetic. It sucks that you felt you could not rely on the airline, and are now out some money. Fundamentally, though, this was your choice. The airline would be obligated to reimburse you the cost of your flight, or book you on another flight, if the flight was cancelled due to bad weather or other issues, but they owe you nothing if the flight took off on schedule.

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What you are looking for is travel insurance. I have never heard of this being offered as a credit card perk, but there might be something out there. You can buy this separately, but only you can decide if it is worth the costs. To me, it would seem to only be worth it for something quite expensive, like a cruise that costs thousands of dollars. The more you travel, the less likely it is to be worth it, since at some point the cost of one canceled trip is less than the insurance paid on the rest of the trips that went through fine.

As a frequent traveller, I recommend that you build some flexibility into your plans, especially during the winter. It is not always possible, but try not to need to be somewhere the day of or the day after your flight. Try to book flights early in the day, as they are less likely to be delayed by problems in flights before them, and you have more options for rebooking. Flight delays due to weather and mechanical problems are not uncommon, and with generally full flights it is sometimes hard to be rebooked in a reasonable amount of time.

Finally, be nice to the gate agents and other airline personel. In general, they aren't any happier about delays than you are (flight crews want to get home too) and don't have any power over weather or mechanical delays. Being rude to them will not help, and will make them less likely to go out of their way to find a solution. Be assertive in asking for what you want, but a smile and a kind word goes a long way.

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Note that you probably want trip cancellation insurance, rather than the broader 'trip insurance'. However, even that generally only covers cancellation due to illness or injury. +1 for building in flexibility, and being nice to gate agents and airline personnel. –  ChrisInEdmonton Feb 22 '13 at 16:53
    
I'm not sure that either form of insurance would have paid a claim in this situation. –  JohnFx Feb 22 '13 at 23:38

EDIT To answer what I think you question is: I do not know of anything other than trip cancellation insurance. And you must be very careful that the policy you purchase for your trip covers the circumstance you described. Essentially, you opted not to take the flight. Not all trip cancellation policies will cover that.

How to Find Trip Cancellation Insurance

  • Call your broker or current agent to see if they can get you a rider
  • http://www.insuremytrip.com/ will help you find a policy if you credit card doesn't offer it.
  • Look at your credit cards, if they do or don't have the right kind of coverage, you will spend a ton of time finding out. I am personally scared to rely on a credit card.

Getting Your Money Back Now

This is an Act of God in the insurance world. You cannot reasonably expect the airline to know the future weather pattern anymore than you could, and therefore, since the plane did fly, you owe them the money based on the ticket you bought. You didn't just buy a ticket, there is a contract with rules about refunds and transferring and such.

It is a bummer situation, and I understand you point of view, but this isn't the airline's fault.

If anybody is to blame for you missing your flight, and therefore not getting a refund, it is your employer. Their requirements for you be in one city and then another are the cause.

While your employer cannot predict the weather, they are ultimately the ones who could give you the okay to be late. If you absolutely cannot be late, and it was critical that you drive out and miss your flight, then your company gets to pay for the flight AND the car. That is the cost of doing business for them.

This is also why, when flying for business, that you pay the higher price and get the refundable / transferable ticket. They cost more, but situations like these illustrate they are worth it for the company.

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+1 for the refundable ticket for business. Also this should have been on the company card if the trip was for business. –  mhoran_psprep Feb 23 '13 at 13:32
    
This should be accepted as the answer. At the very least voted up high enough. –  f1StudentInUS Feb 27 '13 at 16:37

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