a person in a white suit and mask standing in an airplane

Understandably, people paid a lot of money for travel they won’t be taking, and they want their money back. But a new filing from Qatar Airways gives an insight into just how bad things are, and why it might be taking so long, at least for some airlines.

The Doha, Qatar based airline alone has paid out over $1.2 billion in refunds already, to over 600,000 customers, and they’re still not done…

a person in a white suit and mask

Qatar Airways Refunds

Qatar Airways claims it’s worked through 96% of its March backlog, and is now processing new refund requests within 30 working days. In pre covid-19 times that might not sound impressive, but compared to other airlines, it’s a solid effort.

According to the airline, processing 600,000 refunds has been, and continues to be an all hands on deck process. Cabin crew, ground services teams and other departments were called in for customer service training, to handle up to 10,000 refunds per day.

Oneworld airline partner British Airways is said to have processed circa 900,000 refunds, while many other airlines continue to play hardball. US based United Airlines famously changed the definition of “cancelled” to avoid refund duties, and analysts estimate some $3 billion left on the table still to be refunded, among major airlines.

As airlines look to bring travellers back, refund confidence is a key factor, and many holidaymakers are feeling the burn. Qatar Airways was one of the first airlines to bring in a generous “travel confidence” policy, including the ability to turn in a ticket for the full value plus 10%, in the form of a voucher.

Qatar Airways Qsuite Business Class

Airline Booking Confidence

Airline confidence policies help cover travellers when grey areas apply, such as when a flight goes ahead, but a customer no longer wishes to travel. Protecting the full ticket amount, plus 10% for future use gives customers the reassurances needed to continue booking.

The airline also sent travel enthusiasts on an amusing journey, offering free changes for destinations up to 5,000 miles away from the original booking, with no fare at all, provided you could travel in 2020. For many, it was a golden ticket to business class at near economy pricing.

With travel bookings down and money flying out the door, it’s a tough time to be in the airline business.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Yet #BestAvoided still have Billions of pounds in their coffers and persist in making it as difficult as possible to redeem the vouchers they foisted on unwitting consumers… The 900,000 number is NOT refunds but includes their deceptive voucher rip off.

  2. I am working with 7 airlines for refunds. Most of them played ball. A few like Aeroflot and Air Canada continue to refuse to refund. I guess DOT rules don’t apply to flights to/from the US. Will definitely avoid booking with them next time.

  3. I’ve now been waiting 143 days for Iberia to refund my flights. They also rejected a Section 75 chargeback, and now they’re saying they never received my payment for my (issued) ticket. All email replies say exactly the same thing – “you will have to check why your bank rejected the payment”. I’ll never fly or recommend Iberia again, and will potentially have to see them in court to get my money back.

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