I recently booked a flight from Kathmandu to New York via Dubai on Emirates through the U.S. Emirates site. I canceled the flight within 24 hours and requested a refund.
Under U.S. regulations, Emirates owes me a full refund. But Emirates is claiming that the Department of Transportation’s 24-hour rule applies only to flights departing the U.S. They point to their policy on the website as “proof” that it doesn’t qualify.
I contend upon reviewing the policy that it applies to all scheduled U.S. airlines; and foreign airlines with flights departing or arriving in the U.S., when the flights are booked directly on their U.S. website and the flights are booked more than seven days out. The only exclusion for flight departures outside the U.S. is for charter airlines.
Thus, my flight is due a full refund under this regulation, and their refusal to provide it constitutes an unfair and deceptive practice under the DOT guidance.
This seems to be a fairly widespread issue with many foreign airlines and is the cause of many consumer complaints. As such, I hope this singular case might be interesting for you to review as part of a much larger issue. — Scott Cocking, New York
A: I agree with your interpretation of the 24-hour rule. According to guidance issued by the DOT, both U.S. and foreign providers must comply with the rule. I think foreign airlines are trying to get off on a technicality, and the DOT may need to further clarify its rule in order to put an end to the confusion.
For now, though, let’s deal with your issue. When you asked Emirates for a refund, it cited the following policy from its site: “For itineraries booked on emirates.com/us that originate from the U.S., where the booking is made seven days or more prior to flight departure, you may request a refund within 24 hours of booking without penalty.” So, for the 24-hour rule to apply, your flight must originate in the U.S. — not Nepal.
You called and wrote to the airline and eventually it refunded your taxes and fees. That wasn’t enough for you — or me.
Why should an airline offer a refund within 24 hours? It’s the right thing to do. Most tickets are completely nonrefundable, so once that day has passed, you’re stuck with your ticket. What’s more, I’m unaware of any credible evidence that the 24-hour rule has cost the airline industry a dollar — or a dirham. The 24-hour rule is just common courtesy, which is why it surprises me that Emirates, an airline with a great reputation for customer service, is denying you a full refund.
The resolution to your case involved a multipronged approach. First, you were relentless with your refund request, which is always important when a company says “no.” You called, you wrote, and you appealed. By the way, I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Emirates customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site.
After I reviewed your paper trail, my advocacy team and I felt you should get the DOT involved. You can learn how to file a complaint with the DOT at http://tucne.ws/19q4.
The DOT reached out to Emirates on your behalf. Initially, the airline turned it down. The DOT then clarified its policy with Emirates, which resulted in Emirates issuing the full refund. I think you’ve just set an important precedent for other air travelers. If an airline sells tickets from a U.S. site — even if the flight doesn’t originate in the U.S. — it is bound by the 24-hour rule.