NORFOLK, Va. - A free flight could be in your future!
"Right now U.S. consumers are sitting on about $10 billion dollars of unused vouchers and credits," said Kevin Brasler, Executive Editor with Consumers Checkbook.
Thousands and thousands of flights were canceled during the pandemic and when that happened airlines issued credits and vouchers, Brasler said, in part to avoid giving refunds.
Considering the world was shut down for so long and many people stopped traveling, passengers may have forgotten about these credits. Airlines also haven't been tracking people down to remind them.
"They're clearly hoping people forget about these credits and don't use them so they can keep the money," said Brasler.
Brasler said normally vouchers are good for 12 - 24 months after the date of purchase of affected flights.
"Fortunately, in 2021, when it became clear the pandemic wasn’t over, many airlines extended their expiration dates until the end of 2022. Delta recently pushed its expiration date to the end of 2023," Consumers Checkbook reports.
To see if you have any available credit check your online account or frequent flyer portal. While each airline displays credits in a different spot on its website, Consumers Checkbook said generally, if you have an account with an airline, you’ll find vouchers by logging on and looking under “My Trips” or in a digital “Wallet.”
Something to keep in mind — you may need your booking code to access any credit. Passengers can call the airline directly, but Brasler said it's possible you'll end up on hold for a while.
"The problem is, you still might have to call to find out whether you have a credit and if you do have one, you might have to call, again, to actually re-book a flight using that credit. Some airlines have wait times right now like four plus hours when you call them," Brasler said. He said he experienced this recently after calling an airline for help and being put on hold for hours.
"What we're recommending, though, is that if you had a flight, and you cancel it for any reason, and the last three years, go ahead and look for it, because it's likely you do have a credit with that airline," Brasler said.
In addition to that travel agents are offering some advice:
- Hunt for credits even if that means calling the airline directly and waiting on hold.
- Ask for an extension, even if your credit or voucher has expired because you won't lose anything by asking. Also, book another trip!
- That way you will at least have another trip scheduled because if you cancel it, you also cancel the voucher.
- File a complaint with the Department of Transportation. While they may not be able to solve an individual problem, they may be able to get the ball rolling if it is a company-wide issue.