Syndicated columnist, author, and longtime HBES member Amy Alkon here.
Around March 26, I saw tweets from grad students that American Airlines and AirBnb were refusing refunds for flights and lodging for June HBES, cancelled due to coronavirus. Other airlines may also be refusing to refund.
Delta, thankfully, is refunding money.
A number of us tried to use social media to get American Airlines and Airbnb to give refunds, but they didn’t budge.
There may be another way. I’ve just reached out to a newspaper colleague, syndicated travel columnist and author Christopher Elliott, whom I’ve known for 20 years and respect. On his nonprofit travel consumer advocacy website — Elliott.org — he takes on cases like this, and gets resolution, mediating between travelers and airlines. He has the power of the respect and readership he’s earned and big businesses often back down and reverse no refund policies.
Elliott tweeted back to me that he is open to considering taking this on as a case. Knowing him, I suspect he will take this on.
I have not personally lost money, but I suggest that some of you who have had refunds denied band together and collectively write to Chris via his help link at his website: elliot.org/help (This is the way he asks that requests for help be submitted.) I think that collectively writing him (at least two or three people banding together) makes this a more persuasive request (see end for contact information).
An important crux of your appeal, in my opinion: What many people don’t realize is that grad students and ECRs are often living on financial fumes, and the hundreds of dollars or more that are being kept by these companies are huge sums of money — especially at a time when gig work many were doing to make ends meet has dried up.
If you are a student who is struggling to get refunded for flights and lodging related to HBES 2020, please contact HBES Student Representative Cari Pick (firstname.lastname@example.org). Cari will be organizing a collective effort for those interested.
Note: This effort is NOT for conference registration refunds, which are handled by the conference organizers. If you have questions about your registration refund, please contact the conference organizers at email@example.com