After Delta Air Lines cancels Alan Rubin’s flights to Greece, the airline says it issued a prompt refund to his travel agency. Why won’t Skylux Travel pass the money along to him?

Q: My wife and I had reservations made by Skylux Travel for a Delta Air Lines flight from San Francisco to Paris and Athens, Greece, for October 2020. Delta canceled the flight because of COVID-19. I asked for a refund.  

Delta refunded my fare to Skylux last November. Since then, despite numerous calls and emails, I have been unable to get the company to refund my money. I keep being told it is coming, but it never does. Can you help me get my $7,399 back? — Alan Rubin, Tiburon, California

A: Skylux Travel should have returned the money to you as soon as it had the refund from Delta. Under federal regulations, when an airline cancels a flight, you’re owed an almost immediate refund to your credit card. 

So what happened? Like so many other refund cases that have crossed my desk in the last year, I can only chalk this up to the COVID-19 effect. Companies dragged their feet with refunds — in your case, it wasn’t the airline but the travel agent.

You handled this one by the book. You kept your correspondence in writing, both with Delta and Skylux Travel. You had case numbers and emails that you could pass along to me, which you did. Good work!

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This is one of the drawbacks of working through a third party like a travel agency. Your airline refund has to go through another company, and creating a potential for delay. Why did Skylux keep your money for almost a year? Maybe it was experiencing an IT problem handling all the COVID-19 refunds? Or maybe it wanted to keep the money as a kind of microloan. Who knows?

I often wonder what would happen if the roles were reversed. How would travel agencies respond if customers decided to take their time paying for their plane tickets? What if we could take months or years to pay for our travel, long after taking our trips? Of course, the travel industry would descend into anarchy. So why is it OK if travel companies do it to us? 

When I checked on your case, it seemed as if Delta was looking into who had the money. But a few months later, it appeared as if your refund was still in the works. I found the Skylux executive contacts and reached out to them on your behalf. 

“At first we could not see any incoming funds from the carrier for this ticket,” a representative told me. “We contacted the carrier’s travel agency support desk to clarify it. We are happy to confirm that the funds are to be received by us next week, and once that happens the refund will be immediately processed. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused in connection with this request.”

You received every penny of your fare back.