After flights canceled, Hawaii family shares nightmare experience of pursuing refund

Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 10:44 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scott Shero-Amba booked seven flights on Philippine Airlines in February. But then, COVID-19 caused chaos and travel was out of the question.

“That’s where the nightmare began,” said Shero-Amba, a Kailua-Kona resident.

Shero-Amba was going to fly the family to the Philippines and Malaysia, including his daughter who attends Penn State University.

It was a venture that required a lot of coordination ― and $4,000 in plane tickets.

“At first, they said you should see a credit, in 30 days,” Shero-Amba said. “Then it turned into 30-90 days, then 90 days, then 90 working days and then it ended up being three to five months.”

Shero-Amba has been calling the airline every two weeks since then trying to get his money back, but to no avail.

“The consumer shouldn’t have to wait on something like this, it’s the law,” said Stephen Levins, director of the State Office of Consumer Protection.

“If your flight is canceled, and you want a refund, you should get it.”

Levins says only the U.S. Department of Transportation can enforce airline refund laws and says they are not always responsive to consumers—leaving them to fend for themselves against big corporations.

“It’s very demoralizing and frustrating,” Levins said. “$1,000 is for most people a lot of money.”

Levins has other tips for consumers to get their money back, which include being persistent with customer service, elevating your request to a manager, documenting your interactions in writing, skipping the airline and asking your credit card company for a refund.

And finally, tell your story on social media.

“A lot of people find that when they’re not, their needs are not being addressed by the airlines, they go on Facebook and express their frustration and concern,” Levins said.

“Remarkably, they can get some recourse that way.”

Shero-Amba says not having the money is a burden on his family, especially as they try to pay their daughter’s college tuition.

“They’ve held this money in their bank account since last February,” Shero-Amba said.

“They didn’t have to put us on an airplane. They didn’t use the fuel and so forth to take off, they’ve got my money and you think it’s just fair to us to get that refund.”

Hawaii News Now has learned the U.S. DOT is on the case and the airline has 60 days to respond.

So far, the family’s credit card company hasn’t provided a refund.

However, after HNN reached out, Chase representatives said the company would make up the difference if Philippine Airlines did not provide a full refund.

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