When TAP Air Portugal cancels Sandra Einhorn’s flights during the pandemic, she waits a while before requesting a refund. But the money appears to be gone. Is there a way to get it back?

Q: In the summer of 2019, I booked seven round-trip tickets from Miami to Budapest, Hungary, via TAP Air Portugal through Expedia. I planned to fly to Europe the following spring with my husband, my two daughters, my mother and my two cousins. 

In March of 2020, a week or so before our scheduled departure, TAP Air Portugal canceled our flight because of COVID-19. I waited a few months before doing anything, since I got an automated email about flight credit. And who knew when the world would open up again? 

Eventually, time passed, life circumstances changed, and I knew that the seven of us would not be able to take that trip to Budapest in the near future. So I began the process of trying to get a refund. 

It’s been a year since I asked for a refund, and there’s still no refund from either Expedia or TAP Air Portugal. When I try to check my refund process, it either doesn’t have anything in the system or still shows a credit. 

I am exhausted from having to go back and forth between the two. Anything you can do to help me would be so much appreciated. — Sandra Einhorn, Hollywood, Florida

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A: TAP Air Portugal should have refunded your flights promptly since it canceled them. But like several airlines during the pandemic, it didn’t. Instead, it offered a ticket credit, which European Union regulators eventually said was not allowed. Under existing EU rules, an airline must either offer a full refund or a credit for a canceled flight, no matter the reason for the cancellation.

The correspondence between you, TAP Air Portugal and Expedia is pretty confusing. It looks like Expedia believed TAP had resolved your case because you had asked TAP Air Portugal directly for a refund, so it closed your case. And, as is so often the case, no one was willing to take responsibility for your missing refund.

You might have asked for your money back a little sooner. It looks as if you waited several months to start the process. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to get your money back. That’s just a general rule when it comes to my consumer advocacy. Waiting only benefits the company that already has your money.

You could have also reached out to executives at both companies. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the customer service managers at Expedia on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. I also publish the executive contacts for TAP Air Portugal.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf. It reached out to TAP Air Portugal, which refunded your ticket. Expedia also sent you a $50 certificate by way of apology.