TAP Air Portugal reschedules — and then cancels — John Schmidt’s flights. He wants a refund, but the airline is offering a voucher. Who is right?
Q: In August 2019 I booked two round-trip tickets to Lisbon, Portugal, on TAP Air Portugal, using Flight Network, an online travel agency. In March 2020, two months before my scheduled departure, TAP notified me of a significant schedule change. My new outbound flight departed a day later than originally scheduled. My new return flight left two hours earlier.
Considering these changes, I requested a full refund, as all my travel plans were essentially negated. Almost two weeks later, Flight Network notified me that my flights were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that TAP was offering vouchers. I reminded Flight Network that my refund request was due to changes made by TAP and not the pandemic.
Flight Network again conveyed my request for a full refund. TAP responded to Flight Network with, “We will advise our refund department of passenger’s decision,” and, “This case will be closed.” Not very reassuring. I understand these are trying times. However, I am concerned that my request may have been discarded or worse yet, that my refund may have been indefinitely postponed. Can you help me get my refund? — John Schmidt, New York City, New York
A: You’re right, this refund request has nothing to do with the pandemic. TAP Air Portugal changed your flight by an entire day. TAP’s general conditions of carriage (the legal agreement between you and the airline) address your situation. Section 8.2.1 says if the airline cancels your flight, it will give you a full refund of the ticket not flown, in the form of travel credit or refund through the same form of payment you made when you purchased the ticket.
TAP canceled your flight and rescheduled you for the next day. Case closed.
So what went wrong? It looks like something may have gotten lost in translation between Flight Network and TAP. It’s true that you need to make a refund request through your online agent, but nothing is stopping you from also contacting the airline directly. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of all the TAP Air Portugal managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. A brief, polite email to one of them might have helped. Or not.
At the time you sought a refund, TAP was trying to process more refund requests than it had ever seen at once. And in that sense, the pandemic had a lot to do with your refund problem. It looks as if your case got thrown in with the rest of them, with someone deciding that a voucher was your only option. Understandable — and unfortunate.
I contacted TAP Air Portugal on your behalf. A representative called you and said a “system glitch or human error” had delayed your refund. TAP returned your money, as promised.