Enough Is Enough: The Time Is Now For El Al To Issue Refunds For Cancelled Flights And Stop Violating DoT Policy!

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Up until April 3rd, several airlines cancelling flights were refusing to issue cash refunds. JetBlue and United were 2 of the worst domestic offenders at the time.

On that date, the DoT reaffirmed that they were not going to allow airlines to cheat their customers by cancelling flights and refusing refunds. Airlines that cancelled flights to, from, or within the US were ordered to refund flights that didn’t operate or face punitive action by the DoT. Flights with significant schedule changes also had to be refunded upon customer request. Refunds must be made in a timely manner.

Most airlines from across the globe fell in line and started offering cash refunds when customers requested them. Airlines could offer vouchers instead, but if a refund was requested it could not be denied. Sometimes it takes more effort, such as asking for a supervisor or calling again, but airlines got the memo that they had to refund flights that didn’t operate.

Remember that if you are being refused a refund after contacting an airline for a flight that they cancelled:

Some airlines have offered bonus vouchers if you accept a voucher instead of a cash refund. Readers have reported getting bonus offers when calling American, Frontier, JetBlue, and Spirit for example. Those offers are typically a 20% or 25% bonus voucher.

One DDF member that used my hack to get 4 $14.31 Spirit tickets between NYC and Fort Lauderdale for his family wound up getting back $258 for accepting vouchers instead of a cash refund!

And then there’s El Al.

Instead of offering refunds, they shut down their call centers.

They also took away the ability for their travel agents to process refunds. They’re not the only airline to do that, but several others like Air France, KLM, and Turkish have reinstated the ability for travel agents to process refunds for cancelled flights.

DDF member and travel agent Chaikel reported last month that one of his clients filed a DoT complaint against El Al for refusing a refund on a flight they cancelled. El Al called Chaikel saying they got the DoT complaint and asked him to refund the passenger, but Chaikel told the El Al DoT liaison that El Al was blocking the ability to refund the ticket. The El Al rep was floored and had no idea that her airline was disallowing refunds on flights that they cancelled.

One reader shared this correspondence with El Al, which contacted her after she filed a DoT complaint against them (Click to enlarge):

 

And after some more back and forth, things got “surly“…

As noted in the response to El Al, their excuse that they can’t issue refunds due to the office being closed doesn’t hold water.

They could allow travel agents to offer refunds, they just don’t want to. They could offer an online option to refund cancelled flights, they just don’t want to. They could have El Al agents work from home to provide refunds, they just don’t want to.

They tell people to call back when they reopen, but they have already pushed back the date that they plan to reopen multiple times and it can certainly be further pushed back more.

They somehow manage to sell charter flights and operate cargo flights, despite not being “open.”

They refuse to offer cash refunds, in violation of both US law and EU law, though El Al was able to lobby for the Israeli law to be changed to buy them more time to offer refunds.

El Al may come out of this situation looking like one of the worst corporate actors in this COVID-19 crisis.

El Al moved quickly to cancel flights after Israel announced their quarantine rules and then charged confiscatory charter rates for people who needed to get back home after their flights were cancelled.

Some people will say that El Al, like all airlines, is struggling to survive in the wake of COVID-19. Fair enough.

But so are many people. Unemployment rates in Israel and the US are at record highs. People are struggling to pay their bills. It’s both unfair and against the law to hold onto money for flights cancelled by the airline.

El Al’s existence has often been justified as being the last lifeline that would always operate commercial flights from Tel Aviv.

El Al wrote to travel agents on March 9th that they would continue to maintain Israel’s vital air links:

 

 

And they reiterated that point a few days later, saying that foreign airlines were bailing on Israel, but as Israel’s flag carrier they would continue to operate:

 

But then El Al asked Israel for a $700MM bailout and Israel refused.

 

El Al responded to that by shutting down operations in order to tip the negotiations in their favor.

Israel’s lifeline and connection to the outside world has been United, which continues to operate daily flights. How United operates daily flights with just a handful of passengers is an open question, but whether those flights subsist on cargo profits alone or an unpublished subsidy from the state of Israel so that they’re not held hostage by El Al’s negotiations tactics is a story for another day.

Either way, why should passengers trust that El Al will refund them when they reopen, when El Al also said that they would continue to maintain air service during the crisis and when they keep moving the goalposts on when they will reopen and offer refunds?

El Al needs to do the right thing and refund cancelled flights now or at the very minimum, stop preventing travel agents and online booking sites from refunding cancelled El Al flights. After that, they can figure out how to survive in the long-term based on getting bailout funds, loans, or going through bankruptcy to shed liabilities. But using customer money as a de facto bailout is the wrong way to go about it.

I believe that people will remember which companies were there for them in their time of need and which companies abused their trust. El Al, you don’t want to be remembered as the company that was stopping people from paying their bills by refusing refunds during COVID-19.

El Al, your slogan is “Hachi babayit ba’olam.” That roughly means “the most at home in the world.” But if this is how you treat people at home, then they will look for a new home!

You can salvage that reputational damage and loss of future flight revenue by doing the right thing today and start issuing refunds. And it might still be early enough to avoid a whopping fine from the DoT for violating US law.

Retweet at El Al if you agree:

#YallaElAl #IssueRefundsNow #DoTheRightThing

 

 

If El Al has refused a refund for your cancelled flight, you should file a complaint today with the US DoT and file a credit card dispute.

Have you been refused a refund for a cancelled El Al flight?

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102 Comments On "Enough Is Enough: The Time Is Now For El Al To Issue Refunds For Cancelled Flights And Stop Violating DoT Policy!"

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Lurker

Possibly stalling until they figure out whether they’re declaring bankruptcy or not?

Eli/D93

Great post!

Baruch

+1

Mo2

Can we also somehow pressure Air Canada which is clearly violating DoT by not refunding?

eli

They are not bound by DOT’s rules unless the flight touches the USA

Moshe

Canadian law is they dont have to refund. So unless it was to the us..

Ahmed (Shlomo)

Dan, thanks for the post! I booked a flight on Elal YYZ-TLV-YYZ biz class Amex Travel Biz platinum with 35% back a few months ago. Flight is beginning of June. Is the canadian law that they don’t have to refund even if flight is cancelled applicable to this ticket since it originates in Canada or is it only for Air Canada etc? Thanks

david

I went through website, took option of refund instead of credit and got refunded within 3 days on my credit card. Call center was of no help.

Patson

What is the link for the refund? I can easily find the link to get a credit, but not a refund.

Yossi

How about MLB/NBA/NHL/Stubhub/Ticketmaster ? How long can they get away denying refunds for events that will obviously never take place ?

NHL

Don’t even sat that!!! Many brokers sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of MLB/NBA/NHL games that have been suspended, but not yet cancelled. The brokers paid full price for those tickets, sold them to the buyers and were paid. If these games get cancelled, then the secondary marketplaces will immediately want back all the money that was paid to the brokers for the sales (as in withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars from their bank accounts that night…) The brokers will then spend months fighting with the teams to refund their original purchase, and the teams will stall and try to force them to apply that money towards the following year’s ticket purchase. It’s gonna be a huge mess whenever it does happen, but די לצרה בשעתו…

Donny

El Al cancelled my flight to Chicago 1.5 months ago for early June. I called twice. First, right after they cancelled and then 2 weeks after that. The first time they said they’ll do the refund shortly. The second time they said I needed to wait until May 31 and call back because they are closed. I told them I can’t give a free loan until then and contested the charge with the credit card. I’m in favor of helping them with a bailout, but as a country — not personally !!

Hjay

If I took half of a r/t itinerary how much am I claiming on my cc dispute? Half the charge?

BigAl

Great post Dan,

Same topic different airline. We were supposed to fly to EY for Pesach on LOT paid with Amex MR.
Although flight were cancelled ages ago still haven’t gotten my refund. Amex says be patient.
Thoughts?

Yakov

My cancelled flight was from Toronto, not subject to DoT rules. El Al violate Israel Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancellation and Change of Conditions), 5772-2012 (“Aviation Services Law”), on El Al site:
https://www.elal.com/en/About-ELAL/Legal/Pages/Aviation-Services-Law.aspx
https://www.elal.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/About-ELAL/Passengers-Rights/Aviation-Services-Law-New.pdf (summary) – see p. 3
https://www.elal.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/About-ELAL/Passengers-Rights/Aviation-Services-Law-EN-030918.pdf (full text) – see p. 9, section 6.

Yakov

What if my ElAl flights were booked using Chase Sapphire points, via Chase travel center? What are my options?

Mo

air europa is refusing refunds, only offering vouchers. Booked thru a ta, and he claims that if i file a chargeback, he will be the one taking the hit. Is this accurate?

Liz

I booked directly on el als website and they cancelled me
No refind or voucher and nobody to contact
I disputed the charge this morning. Lets see..

Renee

I booked a Virgin Airlines flight to Israel through Expedia leaving tonight- with travel insurance.
Expedia said only an airline credit. Insurance said no refund if flight was cancelled because of Coronavirus. Virgin Airlines does not come to the phone. What are my options?

Renee

I filed a DOT complaint but was not able to dispute on Chase’s website as it did not give me the option to dispute. Maybe because I booked the flight back in August? Have to wait til tomorrow when call center is open. Do you think they will allow a dispute on an 8 month old charge? Flight was cancelled only on 4/10.

Avi

I booked TLV JFK on Norwegian They cancelled my flight I called multiple times (way before they went bankrupt) they promised a refund but never issued it, I ended up disputing it with chase.
on a side point I would stand to loose lots of $ had they issued the refund, because I used the trick of booking via the Norway site paying in Norwegian crones, and on the day of the refund the conversion rate was much lower, but since I disputed it with chase I got back the full amount I paid in dollars.

YM

I love using that trick. Glad to hear other also know about it.

jake

Hod do you file a complaint with DoT?

Burch

Thanx Dan!
do I file one for every leg and one for me and one for my wife?

Reader

Still waiting for your ELAL interview to be posted it’s been a few years.

Tavster

+1000

Steven

Disputed MT chase charge, money returned. ELAL sucks more each day. And then they want to know why we don’t support them?

palty

El Al needs to do the right thing and refund cancelled flights now or at the very minimum, stop preventing travel agents and online booking sites from refunding cancelled El Al flights. After that, they can figure out how to survive in the long-term based on getting bailout funds, loans, or going through bankruptcy to shed liabilities. But using customer money as a de facto bailout is the wrong way to go about it.

while that might be true and in fact is
as the law clearly states that if you but a ticket and the airline cancels then you’re entitled to a full refund

however what we need to understand is that elal doesn’t have any money
only 3 days ago on April 23rd elal has reached a sale-and-leaseback agreement with an unidentified foreign company covering 3 Boeing 737-800s.

The aircraft will be sold for a total of $76 million and leased back to the carrier for eight years.
Elal says it will deposit $21 million of this sum with the buyer in order to cover maintenance and refurbishment work during the lease period.

in other words the airline doesn’t have money and have been struggling for a while already which is no news…..

Steven

As a consumer….this is not my problem.

Palty

Right but they don’t have the funds
And if they file for bankruptcy you womt get your money anyways
I agree with you and I also know that refunds should be processed but at the same time pointing out their financial situation

Forget elal

Fly DELTA

formymother

I disputed my mothers pesach trip on el al with her credit card company who explained that El Al has 90 days to counter the dispute. If El Al isn’t responding to anyone right now, would this work in my mother’s favor?

Matis

90 days does not seem right. That is way too long. Unless it is a special rule due to Carona.

Naomi Schwartz

I’ve been trying to reach el al with a very unsatisfactory reply that they will be in touch when they reopen.
That’s not good enough!

Ira

Dan, If they ceased operations I think you can publish that off the record interview you did with them.

danthecan

Dan: How do I tell if my Air Serbia flight (for May 11) has been cancelled? Thanks!

Stuck in NJ

My flight wasn’t cancelled but they didn’t let me fly because I’m not Israeli and don’t hold a Israeli passport. What recourses do I have besides the credit card company .

Ivana T.

My understanding is that airline landing “rights” in the USA is a privilege. If airlines like El Al persist in flouting US laws, perhaps the Federal govt. should just pull the plug on one of them, seize and sell a plane and disburse the sale proceeds as ticket refunds. It will only take one…

E&N

We had booked three flights on different airlines for kids to come back from Israel. All were cancelled. We paid with Chase Sapphire Reserved. Disputed all three charges. I submitted to Chase an email paper trail of the airlines cancellation and our request for a refund. Chase gave us a temporary credit for all three and said the airlines have 2 billing cycles to justify the charges. If they can’t/don’t then the credits will become final. A week after, we were notified that one of the refunds is now final–not disputed by the airline. Still waiting for the other two but meanwhile the money is back in my account and the onus is on them. Seems a simpler route than a DoT complaint.

Dude26

As long as they feel like (and they are correct in this assessment!) they have the frum sector in their pocket, no matter what they do – nothing will change.

Tiger

I flew United several times in 2019 and there were plenty of frum people on board.

Got last flight out after purim

Small problem
Elal canceled my return flight from ey for March 17, but they did put me on another earlier one. I had paid extra for the bulkhead seat. That seat was unavailable on the new return flight. They made me pay extra for a seat upgrade, and were supposed to refund the bulkhead seat.

How long should I wait? I paid for the bulkhead seat back in November when I originally booked my flight. Is there a limit to how long you can dispute a charge?

Gabbai

If you were foolish enough to have booked tickets with El Al in the first place, you are now getting a good lesson in why savvy travelers never ever fly with El Al! No route that El Al flew could not have been flown by another airline.

Brian

I agree. They are impossible when they are not going bankrupt! In order to cancel a flight I need to call them (can’t do it online) and it takes forever. Their website, even while updated, is a mess and never functions properly. I left them years ago for Delta and am happy I did!

Bruce InCharlotte

Aeromexico denied my refund request when they cancelled JFK-MEX-UIO in May even though my email included the link to the updated DOT guidance and the appropriate phrase.

Their reply: “we have confirmed that your flights underwent cancellation due to an external contingency and unfortunately under contract of carriage, this is considered to be beyond the carrier’s control.”

Jojo2020

Did you write a post regarding canceling United flights? I’m all set up for Plan B for next week. Do I fully cancel and get refunded my miles or are there any better options?

Barbara

Dan, if I purchased 7 el al tickets, Do I file one complaint or 7 separate files?

Yoni

So True!

Chaim

Air Canada refusing refund even though my flight is to Florida! They said I should email customer relations to complain and it’s been 4 weeks already without a response!

Eli

Dan, I have United award tickets for August for my family EWR-TLV, do you think Israel will be open by then?

Jco

Dan, thanks for the tip, filed a Dot complaint but booked me tickets in November is there a way I could Dispute that far back? Doesn’t seem like it on my chase card

Hjay

Booked round trip outbound delayed 9 hours return cancelled. Do I dispute Only half or the whole charge? As they are liable for Israeli compensation even on the outbound & there’s no realistic way I’m getting that any time soon.

meir

how do i dispute if i paid in part chase ur points?

Meme

Dan,
As mentioned above, when refunds are delayed etc,

1. Dispute the charge on the CC
2. File DoT complaint

I have done both. And I received a (pending but already processed) credit on my CC account.

Is there any reason to keep trying to fight with the airline for a refund? Unless they fight and win the disputed CC charges… I’m good to go… no? (my situation is with Brussels through Travelocity – both have been terrible so far)

Thanks Dan
Me

Rivka

“Hachi babayit ba’olam.” my son always says, “if that is the case I would prefer to be homeless!”
They did not cancel my flight on March 16th. I froze my ticket. But nobody can help me book it now. can I request a refund now, since nobody wants to service me or at least request an extension to use it. (which is 12 months from booking) who do I contact now?

Bruce

Dan. I booked my elal flight with chase reserve points. Whenever I call chase to do a chargeback they say that there’s no “charge” to chargeback as it was booked with points and they cant give me back my points until the airline authorizes the refund???

Barbara

I filed a dot complaint but didn’t receive a response. Do they usually send follow up email?

No AIRLINE BAILOUT
Liz

The DAY after I disputed my credit card, I miraculously got a full refund from El Al

Y

This is not just el al, this is almost every company in Israel that has this attitude

YH

I put my return portion of the ticket on hold, as El Al had not cancelled or delayed my flight the day it was leaving in mid march. I would like to book a ticket going back shortly, as Isreal is starting to allow students with an active visa who live most of the last 12 months in Israel to request an entry permit.
El Al is not flying now, but united is. I would like to use that money toward a ticket on United. can I get my money back if El Al has chosen not to fly when the country is open to certain foreigners?
Thanks for your help.

Renee

I had booked back in February a United flight for June 1 leaving from Newark At 7 PM and arriving at Fort Lauderdale at 10. United changed my flight to one leaving Newark at 2:45, stopping in Washington D.C. for 1 1/2 hours and landing in Florida at 8:30. A six hour trip instead of three! But because both departure and arrival times are within 6 hours of the originally scheduled time they will not give me a refund. Do I have any recourse – either to dispute with credit card or with DOT?

Me

Got refunded

Leon Fruchtzweig

I had a flight from Amsterdam to Isreal that was canceled. Wiould the law apply to that flight as well

Moshe

Is it mutar halachically to complain to dot about elal

Howard

Hi all, like many of you I have been struggling to get ELAL to issue a refund. I filed a dispute with my credit card company, BARCLAYS. They initially charged back ELAL but subsequently reserved their position and denied my dispute in response to ELAL’s offer of a credit for future travel. Shame!!! I do not believe AMEX would have denied my dispute. A lesson learned. Anyway, based on this article and Dan’s suggestion, I filed a complaint with the DOT. Today I received an email from ELAL saying that their offices are temporarily closed but “they have forwarded my refund request to their accounts team and will update me when refund processing of my ticket is made”. What does this mean? Are they agreeing to a refund or agreeing to send my request? Obviously this is a stall tactic.
Based on the ELAL email in hand I called my credit card company, BARCLAYS, who now no longer can accept or respond to disputes over the phone due to high volume. Really!!! Shame on BARCLAYS as well!
I drafted and sent a letter to Barclays to reassert my dispute and wait. I will update my post if I receive helpful information.

Does anyone have an additional suggestion as it appears I may no longer have any leverage?

Howard

Update, finally received a credit less cancellation fee of $270 per ticket. SHAME on ELAL for charging this cancellation fee. SHAME on Barclays who would not protect their customer.

Arie

nothing short then defrauding the costumers.

Scott

I have filed a coplaint with the BBB, TICOR, and the USDOT. FlightNetwork (Canada) and El Al still refuse to give a refund. My credit card company says it has been tool long since the initial purchase of tickets for them to do anything. What else can I do? I have not heard back from the DOT.

Barbara Karpel

Dan, Thank you for delving into El Al’s failure to treat its customers properly. We bought tickets in Feb 2020 for travel to Israel in October 2020. My husband is a volunteer dentist at the Trudi Birger Clinic in Jerusalem, providing free dental services to the disadvantage and at risk youngsters. We were to leave Miami on October 6, booked our flights with an El Al reservation agent in their Miami office, paying an additional fee for the personal service.. Those flights were cancelled by El Al due to Covid and I have been trying to get a refund since then. I am horrified that El Al is treating everyone this way, but I must say, that their disregard for the people who go Israel for the purpose of volunteering to help their citizens (non sectarian, the clinic treats children of all ethnicities and religions) at our personal cost. I have placed 2 separate disputes with Citibank, on whose credit card the $4000 tickets were bought. Both times, El Al refused Citibank and us. I will now lodge a complaint with the DoT, as you suggested. I am so glad to have found someone who is actually trying to rectify this situation for those of us who have been, basically, robbed!

ps, El Al , is owned/run by Jews. We are also Jewish, so I feel that I have the rights to say that the powers that be at El Alseem to have forgotten a very important Jewish commandment: Tikkun Olam. Means to repair or set the world right. This is a fine way to honor their birthright!!!!

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