Last year we booked a trip that's coming up soon from the US to a foreign country with a travel agency; the majority of flights take place with an international carrier on the lowest class and non-refundable tickets.

Recently, one of the outbound flight legs has been outright cancelled and there is essentially no way for the airline to honor the original flight dates. The travel agency has been ruthlessly adamant about providing vouchers or getting us to reschedule for next month or even next year. This is not desirable, we just want a refund at this point. No sense in gambling with Covid flights now nor next year.

Anyways, they finally agreed to a refund BUT only if we give up roughly 20% of what we paid and receive an 80% refund.

They claimed that the following taxes are pre-paid and cannot be refunded:

  • AY
  • YQ
  • QF
  • YR

An interesting piece of information is that the 20% is being paid as a separate charge by me right now and I'll receive a full refund of my original booking in the coming weeks.

Question 1: What are these tax codes?

Question 2: Why am I being asked to pre-pay for flight taxes on a flight that is not operating, is this normal?

Question 3: Is the airline just trying to hide from and subvert the efforts of the DOT telling them to provide actual full refunds for a flight they cancelled?

I hope this is on topic. I'm just trying to get some guidance navigating all the craziness. The DOT complaint line does not even attempt to pick up the phone and offer guidance; they play a recording telling you to fill out a form and hang up.

  • 1
    You mean you paid 100% of the cost, and now they ask you to may 20% in order to receive a refund of those 100%? If that's not a scam, I don't know what is.
    – jcaron
    Jun 8, 2020 at 16:44
  • AY: US "Sept 11" security fee. YQ: Airline extra fare (fare disguised as taxes), also called "fuel surcharge". YR: Airline extra fare (ditto). QF: Solidarity tax.
    – jcaron
    Jun 8, 2020 at 16:51
  • @jcaron Yes, your first comment is correct.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jun 8, 2020 at 16:54
  • 2
    Both airlines AND travel agents are doing everything they can do avoid refunding anything. Not sure they would go bankrupt or vanish, but I doubt you would see your refund anytime soon. In any case, you have already paid those taxes! If for whatever reason they feel they can keep part of it (which they can't), they should deduct it from your refund, not ask to to send extra money. That's just outrageous, only Nigerian princes do that!
    – jcaron
    Jun 8, 2020 at 16:54
  • @jcaron Thank you for your thoughts. I spend quite a bit of time on money.stackexchange.com so I am fully cognizant of the scam possibility and do realize that this seems fishy. I am hoping to hear some experienced answers that have specificly dealt with this Covid insanity.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jun 8, 2020 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


As noted in the comments, and in many similar questions, airlines (and travel agencies) are desperate to conserve cash. Even large, full-service airlines have been extremely reluctant to pay cash refunds, using every possible kind of excuse to avoid doing so. In the US and UK, among others, they continue to drag their feet even after government regulators have made it clear that refunds are owed.

The customer has limited recourse here except to be persistent and to report the misbehaving party to its government and industry regulators, or shame them publicly through the news media or consumer advocacy organizations. If you purchased the tickets with a US credit card, you may contact the credit card company and explain the situation to see if they will issue you a chargeback.

There are hundreds of taxes and fees that may apply to an airline ticket, commonly represented as a two-character code assigned by ATPCO. They are not "prepaid" any more than your regular fare is, and so the travel agency's claim is spurious.

  • AY Passenger Civil Aviation Security Service Fee — aka "TSA" fee or "September 11" fee, which funds passenger screening and airport security.
  • QF Solidarity Tax — I am not sure which country this is being assessed for. The U.S. does not assess this tax.
  • YQ/YR — Airline-specific surcharge. Most commonly, YQ is a so-called "fuel surcharge" because it was originally assessed during international crises when the price of oil unexpectedly skyrocketed and could not be factored into published or negotiated fares. Since the mid-2000s, it has become common for a YQ to get charged regularly, especially on frequent flyer reward tickets, and finding "YQ dropping" pricehacks has become a pastime of bargain hunters. Sometimes, YQ or YR are used for other fees, like recovering reservation system charges.

There is an official list of the codes published by the IATA, but it is a paywalled publication. Some but not all of the codes are listed on the Travel Insider blog; a more complete list is provided by Singapore Airlines, but this list omits which charges apply to which countries.

  • Personally, I doubt the DOT will act on your specific case, but I do recommend filing complaints with them, as the aggregate number of complaints does attract press attention and puts some pressure on airlines to remain honest.
    – choster
    Jun 8, 2020 at 22:19
  • Chargeback on the Amex, Visa, and Mastercard networks is not limited to US cardholders. I think that’s the way to go. Make it the merchant’s problem.
    – Calchas
    Jun 11, 2020 at 10:12

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