COVID-19 Air Tickets Refund Experience: How Airlines Handled My Refunds And Changes

With the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affecting the tourism industry especially on air travel and the fact that tourists like me can’t travel for trains, airlines have started to have extraordinary options with regards to cancelled flights during this period. As I have booked tickets throughout the year with a few airlines, and with some key flights happening during the start of the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of my tickets have been affected so far.

Here are my experiences with dealing with my refunds or changes from the airlines that I have booked my tickets on.

I’ll proceed down in alphabetical order.

Before I start, here’s how I rated the services:

Value: 10/10 for exact full value of my booking, minus points for any significant terms attached.
Usefulness: 10/10 for the easiest way I can use the value of my booking, minus points for any significant terms attached.
Efficiency: 8/10 for airline just meeting mentioned standards, 10/10 for airline exceeding mentioned standards, minus 1 point from 8 for each week delayed.


AirAsia

AirAsia Logo H200

Ah, my favourite airline, AirAsia. AirAsia was the first airline to offer flexibility as I know it with two options to change my flights, the first to convert my flight fare value to my credit account to book a new one, valid for 365 or 730 days, or to get unlimited date changes with no flight-change fees until 31 October 2020.

AirAsia AK6285 MKZ PEN 039

With a few useful AirAsia legs booked thanks to their AirAsia Free Seats Promo, I tried both options.

Convert AirAsia flight fares to credit account, valid for 365 or 730 days

The 365 Days Credit Account request needs to be submitted through AVA. Once done, I received a case reference just like any other AVA request I’ve made.

AirAsia Refund Process COVID-19 001

Unfortunately, instead of the 5 to 10 days as mentioned on AirAsia’s Facebook page here, my request was only forwarded from AVA to the relevant team 30 days after my AVA request, and the process would from then take approximately 15 days to complete.

AirAsia Refund Process COVID-19 002

My first credit account credit for the COVID-19 situation was finally credited 11 days after the above email.

AirAsia Refund Process COVID-19 003b

Interestingly, despite submitting 365 Days Credit Account requests for all 3 bookings on the same day back to back, the actual refund date was very spaced apart. While I submitted 3 refunds together, only 2 have been processed so far.

Value: 10/10 (Exact same value as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 8/10 (I have 1 to 2 years to decide what flight I want to book next using my credit account, and I’ll definitely have to fly AirAsia again anyway for their non-hub-and-spoke routes. Money is still locked with AirAsia.)
Efficiency: 3/10 (AirAsia claims in their promotional messages that it takes 5 to 10 days, but in reality it took way longer than that – 46 days and counting in fact.)

Total Score: 21/30

Unlimited Date Change with no flight-change fee until 31 October 2020

The Unlimited Date Change with no flight-change fee until 31 October 2020 request needs to be submitted through AVA. Surprisingly, AVA is smart enough to provide me with all my flight options on the chat.

AirAsia Refund Process COVID-19 004

Once I had confirmed my flight, my new itinerary was sent to my email before AVA could tell me that my new itinerary will be sent to my email.

AirAsia Refund Process COVID-19 005

My new flight itinerary for October was received instantly.

AirAsia Refund Process COVID-19 006

Unfortunately, AVA has lost all her witty replies during the COVID-19 pandemic such as graduating from AirAsia Allstar University. She must be stressed out with thousands of passengers talking to her.

AirAsia Refund Process COVID-19 007

Value: 10/10 (Exact same flight legs as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 7/10 (Zero fare flights changed to a peak date. Credit account can be used in separate bookings. However, the unlimited date change period is rather short, given the unpredictability of the current situation.)
Efficiency: 10/10 (My itinerary was sent to my email before AVA could tell me that she would send it to my email.)

Total Score: 27/30


Firefly

Firefly Logo H200

I called up Firefly during the 2020 Malaysia Movement Control Order (MCO) period with regards to my flight, however, as my flight was out of the MCO period, there was nothing that Firefly could do then, except to advise me to wait for further announcements about the MCO.

Firefly Refund Process COVID-19 002

Firefly only offered a one-time free flight change or refund via credit account for flights from 18 March 2020 to 9 June 2020. My flight was just past this date period. I was advised by the call centre to call back on 10 June 2020 to see if there’s a special case that they could help me with once the CMCO had ended.

After Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had made his announcement regarding the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) on 7 June 2020, I called Firefly again on 8 June 2020 to see if they could assist since I was still not able to use my ticket as I’m in Singapore.

A quick and simple call later, I was told to send in an email to customer_care@fireflyz.com.my for assistance as mine was a special case.

Firefly Refund Process COVID-19 001

As such, I drafted a simple email like this during and after the call, attaching my itinerary as well.

Only 1 minute after sending the email, I got a call back from Firefly saying that she (the call centre lady) had checked with her manager and she could process my decision on the phone immediately of either a one-time free flight change or refund via credit account. As I am not sure when I can enter Malaysia again, I opted to go with the refund via credit account to play it safe.

She then told me to wait for 10 to 15 working days for my refund via credit account email for further information.

16 days after the request (ie. 12 working days), I received another email confirming that my credit account has been credited.

Firefly Refund Process COVID-19 003

I followed the steps to check on my credit account, and it is in already.

Firefly Refund Process COVID-19 004

Value: 10/10 (Exact same value as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 3/10 (I have only 6 months from the date of issue to decide what Firefly flight I want to book next.)
Efficiency: 8/10 (Firefly said the process would take 10 to 15 working days, and it took 12, so it had just met mentioned standards.)

Total Score: 21/30

Jetstar Asia (First Experience)

Jetstar Logo H200

Jetstar Asia offers a full refund in the form of a Jetstar travel voucher valid for 6 months from date of issuance. This was done through Manage Booking, but is now done through Jess, also normally known as the live chat.

Jetstar Asia T4 Parking 001
Jetstar Asia aircraft parked at T4 Apron, Singapore Changi Airport. Photo taken before the Circuit Breaker.

I received this email at 10.00pm after completing the form on Manage Booking. Yeah that’s not going to happen in a day.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process COVID-19 001

Almost 26 hours later, I received an email to say that my Jetstar travel voucher would be issued in the next 48 hours. Not bad.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process COVID-19 002

On the next day, I received another email to say that my Jetstar travel voucher will only be issued in 7 business days.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process COVID-19 003

2 days after that email, I received yet another email that my Jetstar travel voucher take up to 14 days to be issued.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process COVID-19 004

8 days later, I finally got my Jetstar travel voucher.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process COVID-19 005

In total, it took 12 days from request to issuance as compared with the 48 hours first mentioned in the first email. The voucher also expires quite fast with only a 6-month validity. Now I have to book $239.44 worth of stuff in a single booking by 27 September, or the rest of the value would be forfeited.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process COVID-19 006

Argh, and that’s only the first of more bookings to come if the COVID-19 situation remains the same or worsens.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process COVID-19 007

Value: 10/10 (Exact same value as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 2/10 (I have only 6 months from the date of issue to decide what flight I want to book next, despite still being in the COVID-19 pandemic, AND the Jetstar travel voucher needs to be used in a single booking.)
Efficiency: 8/10 (12 days from request to issuance as compared with the 48 hours mentioned in the first email.)

Total Score: 20/30

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Jetstar Asia has since updated the terms and conditions from 17 June 2020 of travel vouchers issued due to the impact of COVID-19 to become multi-use vouchers where any outstanding credit can be used towards another booking. The revised score is as follows.)

Value: 10/10 (Exact same value as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 6/10 (I have 12 months from the date of issue to decide what flight I want to book next using the multi-use voucher (ie. a “credit account”).)
Efficiency: 8/10 (12 days from request to issuance as compared with the 48 hours mentioned in the first email.)

Total Score: 24/30

Jetstar Asia (Second Experience)

On my second experience for the suspension of all Jetstar Asia’s scheduled services until 31 July 2020, excluding limited services to repatriate citizens and permanent residents, or those with prior written approval for travel, and general cargo operations, I headed to the live chat to request for a cash refund since I couldn’t afford to keep so much vouchers with Jetstar Asia.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash No Reply COVID-19 001

Welp. No reply at all.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash No Reply COVID-19 003

Here’s the feedback form I filled up after being cut off from the live chat automatically with no reply from Jetstar Asia for 20 minutes.

I tried again a week later, hoping that the live chat has a shorter queue and the live chat agent would be able to chat with me.

Thankfully, this time, they were more responsive.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash COVID-19 001

I was pleasantly surprised that my request for a cash refund was GRANTED, and not only that, the procedure was done IMMEDIATELY.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash COVID-19 002

My cash should be banked into my bank account within 14 business days.

I tried converting my issued voucher for my first experience above into cash too, but that was not possible. Meanwhile, I clarified certain important points about their revised multi-use voucher.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash COVID-19 003

I submitted a vastly different feedback result as compared to last week’s where I literally had no response.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash COVID-19 004

On 8 July 2020, 13 days or 9 business days later, I received an email saying that my refund has been processed and my refund amount should be visible in my bank account. Upon checking my bank account, it was unfortunately not. The email did however state generically to allow a minimum of 14 business days, though I’m not sure if this is referring to the earlier request or this email.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash COVID-19 004

On 20 July 2020, 12 days or 8 business days after the previous email, or 25 days or 17 business days after the initial request, I received my refund in my bank account.

Jetstar Asia Refund Process Cash COVID-19 005

Value: 10/10 (Exact same value as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 10/10 (I have real money back in my bank account now.)
Efficiency: 7.5/10 (The overall timing it took exceeded the initial stated timeline by 3 working days.)

Total Score: 27.5/30


Qantas via CheapTickets.sg

Qantas Logo H200 CheapTickets.sg Logo

This is by far the most complicated, inconvenient and unsure process of what is even going on.

Qantas announced on 19 March 2020 that they will be stopping international flights from 1 April 2020, and my April booking was thus directly affected. I had to contact CheapTickets.sg myself to start the refund process as no information was provided by them despite the airline already announcing that they are stopping operations temporarily and passengers who had booked directly with them would receive their fares in flight credit.

I submitted my request for cancellation under My Booking, to which, I received this email:

“Dear customer,

Currently, Travix Customer Service is facing high volumes of customer calls and emails due to the Corona virus and the impact this has on their travel plans. Unfortunately, this results in a delayed response to your request.

In case you are seeking more information about cancelling your tickets to or from China, please check the website of the airline you are travelling with, to access the latest information.

If you would still like to receive a personal response from us, please reply to this email.

Thank you in advance for your understanding!

Customer Service”

Cheaptickets Refund Process COVID-19 001

2 days later after submitting my request to CheapTickets.sg, Qantas officially sent me an email with regards to cancelling your booking for a Qantas Flight Credit. But of course, I couldn’t do it as my booking was done through a travel agent.

(I had actually physically gone down to the Qantas service desk at Changi Airport Terminal 1 before Qantas stopped flying to check on my booking, but as my booking was under a travel agent, they couldn’t do anything, not even a letter for insurance.)

Qantas Refund Process COVID-19 001

I then contacted Qantas to try my luck if they were able to assist in getting my Qantas Flight Credit directly.

Qantas Refund Process COVID-19 002

One day after Qantas has suspended their flights, CheapTickets.sg sent me an email to say that my booking has been cancelled. Yup, definitely.

The email also tells me not to contact CheapTickets.sg. So friendly.

Cheaptickets Refund Process COVID-19 002

16 days after I sent my request to Qantas, I received an automated reply that they will take a little longer than normal.

Qantas Refund Process COVID-19 003

21 days after that, I finally got a reply from Qantas which pretty much pointed me back to CheapTickets.sg.

Qantas Refund Process COVID-19 004

35 days after the previous email from CheapTickets.sg, they sent me another “update”, which wasn’t much of an update.

Dear [RailTravel Station’s real name]

Hereby we would like to provide you with an update on the status of your refund request.

The Coronavirus and the disrupted air traffic resulted in an enormous amount of requests and cancellations. We are constantly on top of your refund request, however, we are dependent on the airline and their refund process.

As we transferred the ticket amount to the airline after you bought your tickets with us, this means that we must first get your refund amount back from the airline before we can transfer the amount back to you.

With your airline having the pressure of so many requests, it can take a long time before your request has been processed. Currently, we cannot provide you a time indication of this process. We understand the inconvenience this can cause, and we hope for your understanding. Above all we wish you good health.

This is despite Qantas saying when I visited them at the Qantas service desk at Changi Airport Terminal 1 before Qantas stopped flying that the refund process had kicked in immediately when they announced that they had stopped flying. Hmm.

Cheaptickets Refund Process COVID-19 003

Value: 0/10 (I do not know if I will be receiving Qantas credits or a refund through CheapTickets.sg as no solid updates have been given by Qantas or CheapTickets.sg.)
Usefulness: 0/10 (I have not received any direct messages about any progress yet.)
Efficiency: 0/10 (No news about being close to a refund till date and pushing the blame to Qantas.)

Total Score: 0/30

This score may be updated if I receive my money back from Qantas or CheapTickets.sg. I will have to seriously reconsider booking any tickets though travel agencies from now on.

Score is pending update following the confirmation of pending refund.

Cheaptickets Refund Process COVID-19 004

On 6 June 2020, CheapTickets.sg sent me an email to say that my “refund request was processed by the airline, and (they) are now initiating the transfer of the outstanding amount into (my) account.” The amount may take up to 10 working days to be credited back to my credit card.

Key dates for clearer understanding of my current refund situation:

16 March 2020: First and only request sent to CheapTickets.sg
18 March 2020: Qantas officially sends me an email with regards to my affected booking
28 April 2020: Qantas replies to my request which led me back to CheapTickets.sg
7 May 2020: CheapTickets.sg sends me an email to say that they “cannot provide [me] a time indication of this process”
6 June 2020: CheapTickets.sg sends me an email to say that my “refund request was processed by the airline, and (they) are now initiating the transfer of the outstanding amount into (my) account.”
11 June 2020: The refund from CheapTickets.sg appeared in my credit card transaction on my POSB digibank online account.

On 11 June 2020, the refund appeared in my POSB digibank online account. This was quite unexpected as I was expecting Qantas Flight Credits instead, but cash is great. Finally, after almost 3 months of the refund process, I received my cash back.

Value: 10/10 (The refund was simply a reversal of my credit card charge, so it was like nothing ever happened.)
Usefulness: 10/10 (I have real money back to offset my credit card bill now.)
Efficiency: 2/10 (While Qantas mentioned that the credit account would have been instant upon requesting after their announcement, CheapTickets.sg said that “cannot provide (me) with a time indication of this process”. Well, at least they were honest and didn’t give a timeline that they could not fulfill. It took 87 days for the whole refund process to be completed.)

Total Score: 22/30


Scoot

Scoot Logo H200

A clear difference from CheapTickets.sg, here’s Scoot.

Scoot Parking South Apron COVID-19 001
Scoot aircraft parked at South Apron, Singapore Changi Airport. Photo taken before the Circuit Breaker.

Scoot first offered a full refund in the form of a Scoot travel voucher valid for 12 months from date of issuance.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 001

Scoot said that the refund process would take up to 30 business days, but I received the approval on the next day.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 002

The approval came along with the message that my voucher would be issued within 24 hours. It was issued only 16 minutes later. However, instead of the Singapore Dollar amount that I paid, I was given the voucher in Australian Dollars instead.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 003

Value: 8/10 (Due to the depreciating Australian Dollar, I got less than what I paid for thanks to the conversion rate.)
Usefulness: 1/10 (I have 365 days to think about where I should book my next flight, but the options would get less and less every day due to the depreciating Australian Dollar value. I was constantly making a loss every day with my Australian Dollar Scoot voucher.)
Efficiency: 10/10 (While Scoot mentioned that it would take up to 30 business days, the whole process from request to voucher issuance was completed in about 22 hours.)

Total Score: 19/30

Scoot then updated their policy to a 100% refund via the original method of payment, or a 120% refund in Scoot vouchers, valid for 12 months. These options apply even if you have previously received a 100% refund in the form of Scoot travel vouchers.

As such, I opted to get a 100% refund via my original method of payment in order to cut my losses as my fare was in Australian Dollars, which is depreciating steadily against the Singapore Dollar. The last thing I would want is a depreciating voucher.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 005

This process was a simple one-click step. I chose to get my refund via Mode of Payment.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 004

The case email mentioned that the process would take up to 14 weeks. That’s fine, at least I’m getting cash back.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 006

28 days (4 weeks) later, Scoot confirmed my refund back to my original mode of payment and said that it may take at least 15 days for the refund to show up on my credit card statement.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 007

In actual fact, it took less than 7 days. (I don’t check my bank statement every day so it could even have been earlier than that.) And it was way better than the Aussie Dollar refund that I was expecting, which I wanted to just take to cut my losses.

Scoot Refund Process COVID-19 008

Value: 10/10 (The refund was simply a reversal of my credit card charge, so it was like nothing ever happened.)
Usefulness: 10/10 (I have real money back to offset my credit card bill now.)
Efficiency: 10/10 (While Scoot mentioned that it would take up to 14 weeks, I received my refund in just 4 weeks.)

Total Score: 30/30


So there’s my COVID-19 airline refunds experience thus far. I’m glad to say that the airlines that I frequent and quite like flying with have performed quite well in this COVID-19 situation, and the travel agent and other airline that I don’t regularly use or fly with don’t really have good conditions for their voucher refund, or any news if I will get my refund anyway.

I guess this experience has taught me who I should be buying tickets from and flying with in future after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do you have your own experience with refunds during this COVID-19 pandemic? Share your experience below!

9 comments

  1. A bit of a carp score for Qantas because YOU decided to use an intermediary instead of booking direct. Maybe you should give ‘yourself’ a low score in this case.

    1. You do seem to take issue with anything I post these days.

      I clearly stated that my tickets were booked through CheapTickets.sg, my written experience was mainly with CheapTickets.sg with Qantas being the airline I booked on and enquired with if they could help with my CheapTickets.sg process, and I did very clearly state that “I will have to seriously reconsider booking any tickets though travel agencies from now on”. I do actually know how booking tickets through travel agencies operate, and my score was given to CheapTickets.sg as clearly stated that my booking was for Qantas via CheapTickets.sg.

      Why do you berate me for not getting my own refund, and yet accuse me of giving that score to Qantas?

  2. If you gave a low score to QANTAS essentially because they wouldn’t hold your hand during the refund process then that is plainly unfair to QANTAS. Of all the carriers in the Asia Pacific, QANTAS will be the only one surviving without a government bailout. If you had dealt directly with QANTAS in the first place your review would most likely have been straight 10’s. Stop being so precious.

    1. If you had read my article and previous personal reply to you, I clearly again stated that I gave my score to CheapTickets.sg and not Qantas. I find it pointless to correct you if you insist that my score is for Qantas.

  3. Hi there.
    May I know at roughly what time did you receive your refund from Cheaptickets On the 4th business day?

    I have the same situation as yours and I’m just wondering how Long it takes between their email stating they have already processed the refund to actually getting the refund on my end.

    Thank you 🙂

    1. I didn’t really check on the timing and my credit card statement didn’t give a timing for that transaction. My email said that it would take up to 10 working days though.

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