If you booked or canceled a flight during the pandemic, you probably noticed airlines have updated their policies for issuing and using vouchers.
Now, a number of airline vouchers are getting closer to their expiration date.
Christina Liao is one of those passengers who could be affected by expiring ticket vouchers. In December 2020, she booked four tickets on American Airlines. She planned to take her young kids to Orlando in April 2021.
When the family wasn’t able to get vaccinated in time for the trip, Liao decided to put it on hold.
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"American Airlines promptly sent me an email saying, 'Hey, you know, your trip has been canceled. Rest assured, your travel credit with us is safe, and just come back to us when you're ready to rebook," Liao said.
The email didn’t mention an expiration date for her travel credit. So Liao said she called the airline and learned she must book her flights and travel by the end of 2021.
But for Liao: that presents a problem. According to her, her children are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. For that reason, she’s not comfortable traveling. She asked American Airlines to extend her travel credits into 2022, but her request was denied.
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Looking for help, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation and reached out to Responds.
NBC10 Responds asked American Airlines what it recommends passengers do if their airline ticket vouchers are expiring, and they are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine under CDC guidelines.
American Airlines responded, "Our policy clearly states that airline tickets have a 12-month validity period and as such, travel credits also have a 12-month validity period. Having said that, our team has been working around the clock throughout the pandemic to take care of our customers, including by providing additional flexibility to make sure those who want to change their travel plans have options and time to do so.”
Speaking to Liao’s case, the airline said: "In this instance, we are providing the customer additional flexibility to use her travel credits in 2022. As we welcome travelers back to the air, we continue to evaluate our travel waiver and travel credits policies during these uncertain times.”
Industry-Wide Impact on Consumers
The issue of expiring airline vouchers isn’t unique to any one airline.
"Right now, it's a giant problem, and it's only going to get bigger," according to the consumer advocacy group, Travelers United.
The group said expiring airline ticket vouchers are an industry-wide problem, and it wants to see airlines change their policies so the vouchers never expire.
"The president and the secretary of transportation can simply say that we are we are issuing an emergency rule, and then we can go forward from that," Travelers United President Charlie Leocha said, adding that if you are denied an extension as Liao was, you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.
"I think that the more responses we get to the airlines, the more they will change," Leocha said.
Travelers United told NBC 10 Responds it has a meeting with the U.S. transportation secretary in the coming weeks to discuss airline voucher policies.
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