My family was ready to travel from Qatar to NY City to be with me for my Birthday and graduation. It was going to be one big happy event with international travel scheduled in May, but then out of nowhere comes COVID-19. To get our money back for our “non-refundable” tickets is out of the question, I thought, but I was wrong. After hours of getting the run-around from the airline we found a travel guru, Mo Sayid, who saw the struggle people like me were facing and started a service to help, but this is not the whole story. Mr. Sayid launched a counrty-wide initiative to help frontline workers such as first responders, nurses, doctors and COVID-19 patients get their refunds back, guaranteed, full stop. How does is work? Let’s find out.
Fronline Workers Canceled Travel Plans
Sahar Mehri, a Medical Assistant at Standford Healthcare Hospital wasn’t too happy when she found out that getting her non-refundable airline tickets refunded would be such a hassle.
“I’m trying to treat patients while being kept on hold for an hour by the airline, at some point I just had to give up,” Mehri said.
Mehri had travel plans with her family but due to COVID-19 creating havoc, she is now working at the front lines of the pandemic saving lives. She doesn’t have the time or energy to sit on call for hours. Mehri isn’t alone, with summer approaching, thousands of healthcare providers and first responders had vacations booked in advance. Most of those flights are non-refundable and airlines aren’t making it any easier to get a refund.
I didn’t know the law nor did I have the time to argue on the phone about technicalities when I could very easily be countered with terms and conditions I might have agreed to while buying the ticket.
That is when this website Airline Refund Help.com caught my eyes. It is a service created by Mr. Sayid and a group of travel industry experts with over 30 years of experience doing their bit to help out during COVID-19. They help people like me who have COVID related cancellations get their refund, but more importantly, they do it free of charge for frontline workers. I found it inspiring that people and companies are stepping up and I was interested to know how it works? What they do? I wanted answers.
So I reached out to Mo Sayid, the CEO of Airline Refund Help to dig more into what he and his company is doing to help, not just me but specifically people on the front lines saving lives. Here’s my conversation with Mo:
Are People Actually Entitled To A Full Refund If Their Travel Plans Were Canceled Because Of Covid-19?
Yes! Because airlines are governed by the Department of Transportation, when flights are canceled by the DOT mandate, all passengers are entitled to a refund; not simply a travel voucher.
So now that I know what my rights are, I asked the obvious.
What if the tickets were non-refundable?
Even if the tickets are non-refundable, you are entitled to 100% refund in the same form that you paid.
Are airlines following this protocol and giving people refunds?
That’s already a different story. Getting the actual refund can be a very time and labor-intensive process, often with no results.
What can people expect when they call the airline to get a refund?
It depends on the airline, but they will definitely get the run-around, be transferred to other departments and often wait on hold for an hour or more and even then get some kind of excuse. They’ll offer you a voucher to travel another time, just to be able to hold on to your money.
Why would the airline not simply give a refund – no questions asked?
I guess they are short on money right now and they want to hold on to whatever capital they can. Keep in mind though, the airline has huge lobbying companies and they’ll be getting all kinds of bailouts, so they should NOT hold on to people’s hard-earned money they so desperately need in these tough times.
Does your service guarantee to get a refund? And if so how do you do it?
Yes, we can guarantee it because we understand the system and we know which departments to talk to that are actually able to process the refund. It’s not always easy for us either. We have to haggle, argue and demand to talk to managers until we get it done, but we have the experience on how to stand up to the airlines and not accept no for an answer. We’ve been doing this for years.
What inspired you do give this service free of charge to front-line COVID workers and patients?
From the start of this crisis we were inundated with requests for help getting refunds. At one point I was helping my cousin, a nurse in the NY area, get an airline refund while she was treating COVID patients and it his me – this is just not right! These people are heroes and are doing god’s work, they should not have this extra unwarranted stress. If we can help take this one stress off their minds, we can do our part. That’s when we launched the Airline Refund Help website.
Is this website www.airlinerefundhelp.com for front-line workers only?
No, we help anybody but it’s completely free for front-line workers. For other people there’s a 10% charge only after we get the refund. It is the least we can do to help play a part in this difficult fight and also recognize the true heroes out there.
It is inspiring to see that people and companies such as this one are stepping up during this crisis to help others. Thanks to ‘Airline Refund Help’ Medical assistent Sahar Mheri got his full refund and is continuing to treat patients on the front lines, and my family got our canceled non-refundable tickets refunded. I’m still sad though, they won’t be with me for my birthday!