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As explained in a relevant question, my flight with Condor [from Frankfurt to Prague] was recently cancelled. I've emailed them asking for a refund 5 days ago, but so far received no response. Today another flight with British Airways was cancelled and likewise they only offer a voucher if asking for a refund online. To get your actual money back they're asking you to call them and their lines are all plugged up.

Given that I'm unable to reach the airline at this moment, can I just apply for a chargeback on my credit card? If it matters I have a US-issued credit card and live in the US.

Update: in the end I was able to get a refund by asking BA on Twitter.

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    I've applied for a chargeback with my bank. Will post an answer when it's finalized. – JonathanReez Mar 20 at 17:30
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    That’s what I do. And I really don’t care about the ethics police who claim that’s wrong. – user 56513 Mar 20 at 17:35
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    @user56513 what ethics police make such a claim, and on what basis? – phoog Mar 20 at 18:40
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    In this case a chargeback is valid - it's the other ridiculous cases where the merchant hasn't done anything wrong where their use gets frowned upon. Too many people use it as a first resort in all circumstances, and that's where your "ethics police" come in. – Moo Mar 20 at 19:05
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    Me. I'm allowed an opinion, just as you are. Simple really. – Moo Mar 21 at 5:51
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Since your card was issued in the US, your card operates under US law. Federal law specifies, at 15 USC 1666(b)(3), that a credit card borrower ("obligor") may dispute a charge for goods or services not received:

(b) Billing error For the purpose of this section, a “billing error” consists of any of the following:

...

(3) A reflection on a statement of goods or services not accepted by the obligor or his designee or not delivered to the obligor or his designee in accordance with the agreement made at the time of a transaction.

As you did not receive the services for which you paid, you are legally entitled to have the charge for the services removed from your account. Furthermore, you're entitled to a refund under EU law and cannot reach the airline to arrange the refund, so there is little support for the argument that requesting a chargeback is unethical.

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With respect to Tor-Einar's more general answer, the position is a little more comfortable in the UK. I accept that the OP isn't there, but we're here for everyone, surely?

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 provides that the card issuer is jointly and severally liable to the card holder for claims in respect of misrepresentation or breach of contract. As Which? (the UK's largest consumer protection organisation) more readably summarises matters,

This means it is just as responsible as the retailer or trader for the goods or service supplied, allowing you to also put your claim to the credit card company.

They go on to note that

You don't have to reach a stalemate with the retailer or trader before you can contact your credit card provider - you can make a claim to both the retailer and credit card provider simultaneously, although you can't recover your losses from both.

It's clear from other writings here that you have a statutory entitlement to a refund, and nothing is said about the acceptance of vouchers being mandatory.

So as I read it, in the UK you are perfectly entitled to try ringing BA and failing to get through, then getting on the phone to your card issuer and requesting a refund. This is in no way a misuse of the system; it is your entitlement as a credit card holder.

Note that you aren't concerned about chargebacks. It is likely that your card issuer will seek to recover from BA any moneys refunded to you, very possibly by the chargeback mechanism, but that is a matter between them and BA. What you want is a refund, plain and simple.

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It will depend on the details in the contract between yourself and your bank and/or consumer protection legislation in the applicable jurisdiction.

Chargebacks' main intention is to prevent credit card fraud and to reverse unauthorized charges to your card. They are not necessarily rightful, just because the merchant doesn't provide the product or service you ment to pay for. The only time I disputed a credit card charge, I had to sign a statutory declaration that I hadn't authorized it. My bank would not allow me to reverse a credit card charge which I actually authorized, just because I allegedly not got what I have paid for. Making a wrongful statutory declaration may have quite severe consequences for you and is here in Germany punishable with up to three years imprisonment.

It is however not uncommon that banks or consumer protection legislation allow a more broader use of chargebacks. It may also be a legal argument that your authorization was bound to the condition that you actually get what you pay for.

With cancellations caused by the corona situation, the legal aspects are not always obvious and it is unfortunately not self-evident that an airline is obligated to compensate you for a cancelled flight. I assume (based on the airlines) that your flights are covered by the EU Flight Compensation Regulation, but I am not 100% sure what the airlines are obligated to in case of force majeure. If the airline is not legally obligated to pay you back in cash for the cancelled flight and you reverse the credit card charge, you must assume that the airline will find a different way to reach out to you and present a claim for the ticket price and additionally whatever they feel entitled to for such an 'extra service'.

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    Are EU airlines not obliged to refund the original amount if the flight is cancelled due to a force majeure? – JonathanReez Mar 20 at 19:35
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    This is exactly the fake ethics police in action, that the comments to the question alluded to and I have therefore downvoted it. OP Please let us know how your claim is handled by the card issuer, I'm fairly confident that it will be resolved in your favor. – nikhil Mar 20 at 20:11
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    @nikhil Thank you very much for the downvote. I didn't express a single fragement of my own opinion in this answer, just tried to describe the legal situation. It is kind of you to bash me just because you don't like reality. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Mar 20 at 20:39
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    @nikhil Noone said that Jonathan will be jailed for making a request. Stop fantasizing. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Mar 20 at 21:34
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Wow, they seem stricter in Germany. Here, with the UBS, when I don't get what I paid for and can't reason with the company, I just write an email to the chargeback unit explaining the situation, attaching whatever proof I have, and they refund it after a week (without replying to the email but sending a regular letter). Done it a dozen times (all legit ofc) and they keep saying "Sie müssen verstehen dass wir keine Schlichtungsvermittler sind" but they always end up doing it for me with no fuss. Really nice service! – Crazydre Mar 21 at 10:15
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Given that I'm unable to reach the airline at this moment, can I just apply for a chargeback on my credit card?

When you phrase it like that, no. To make a chargeback, you have to first give them a reasonable opportunity to resolve the issue directly with you. Not being able to reach them "at the moment" does not justify a chargeback. Given the extraordinary circumstances, some leeway is due.

On the other hand, prior to this you present conditions beyond mere not being able to reach them "at the moment". Five days is pushing it, although, again, given the circumstances the generous thing to do would be to give them a bit more time. You also say that the other airline is requiring people to call, and in this day and age, I find requiring a phone call to be unjustified. They deserve some of the blame due to their insistence on using twentieth century technology, but even if they were using a web-based submission system, they would still likely have a backlog.

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  • When I had a flight cancelled by BA recently, (flight would be 25th of March, was cancelled about 2 weeks ahead of time) I was send a mail pretty much like OP mentioned. I did click on the cancel flight and the reply mail promises me the cost of the flight returned to me the way I paid them. Even though the like 'call us for refunding' was in the offer mail as well. – Willeke Mar 22 at 16:43
  • If there was a form I could fill out and they've promised it would take X days, I'd do it. But they want me to spend god knows how many hours on the phone which is completely unreasonable. – JonathanReez Mar 22 at 19:33
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This is a variation of a question that came up often enough. In practice, a chargeback will currently be your only recourse in cases like this.

For obvious reasons, airlines do not want to give refunds currently, and are even pushing for legislation that would allow them to give out vouchers instead of refunds, and delay the actual payout for up to a year.

However, at this time the EU regulation still stands: You are entitled to a refund if your flight is cancelled in all cases - even if the cancellation is not under the airline's control. Nevertheless, the airlines won't pay; and I assume that even if they agree that you are right they may simply try to delay payment until after the crisis.

If they do not refund you, you can request a chargeback. Here's guidance from the ING, one of the large banks in Germany. It's in German, but in a nutshell:

  • You have to talk to the company (airline) first
  • If they offer a voucher, the bank suggest that you take it
  • If you do not want a voucher, you need to request a refund from the company/airline
  • If they either refuse, or do not react, or do not refund within 30 days, then you can ask to initiate a chargeback

Best to keep all the documentation of your attempts to resolve the situation (e.g. emails sent).

Note: While the OP has a US card, chargeback rules don't vary wildly and you are entitled to a refund if the other party has no legal right to the payment; also the EU regulations for refunds apply in this case regardless of the nationality of the passenger.

Good for the OP that they got the situation resolved.

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