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Know your rights with airline refunds during coronavirus pandemic

You can always ask for a refund, and in some cases you are entitled to one.

SEATTLE — Airlines have been pretty stingy when it comes to providing full refunds these days. 

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduced travel, and airlines are feeling it. But as more Americans struggle financially, many need actual money instead of vouchers if they cancel a flight due to COVID-19.

Most airlines have given vouchers with an expiration date. Since vouchers have no cash value, some consumer advocates say you’re better off booking a trip using your voucher and then taking out a travel insurance policy that covers bankruptcies.

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Elaine Chao, U.S. secretary of transportation, recently wrote in a USA TODAY op-ed that the Department of Transportation is closely monitoring airline practices regarding refunds, as many passengers face financial uncertainty.  

Your credit card could bail you out, but it's not a guarantee. Many are relaxing refund rules for travel-related purchases so it’s worth asking. 

You also might want to try going to social media to log your complaint or even wait until closer to your travel date to see if an airline cancels your flight. 

If an airline cancels your flight, you are actually entitled to a refund, and it’s backed by the law. Some airlines are defaulting to vouchers, but you can press them on getting a refund if the cancellation is on their end – and the Department of Transportation recently said those refunds should be prompt.

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If an airline files for bankruptcy, there's no guarantee you'll get a refund. And if there is a government bailout, understand that money is to help the company and its employees rather than consumers. 

Do you have a question or concern about money during the coronavirus pandemic? Email us at money@king5.com.