UPDATE: In early March, about a month after our story aired, Marvin Husby received a letter from Capital One saying they had been working on his behalf and American Airlines was willing to give him a full refund on the miles “as a goodwill gesture.” 

 

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BARRINGTON HILLS, Ill. (CBS) — Airline customers are navigating mazes trying to get refunds on flights after COVID-19 derailed their travel plans.

Getting your refund can be tricky as it is, and even trickier if you used reward points for the purchase. A Barrington Hills family told CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas the payment snafus are causing headaches.

“We used to live in the city. We would bike to the games,” said Holly Husby.

As is displayed in their basement decorative choices, the Husbys are a Cubs family. They had both their first date and their engagement at Wrigley Field.

“It was Cubs-Giants,” said Holly Husby.

“The Cubs have always been a family affair,” said Marvin Husby.

The family booked a trip in early March to see the Cubs play the Cardinals in a historic series in London. They bought the plane tickets using about $12,700 worth of credit card reward points.

But then COVID-19 hit and international travel came to a halt, so they tried to get a refund.

“We would call Capital One, and Capital One would tell us to call American Airlines. We’d call American Airlines, and American Airlines would tell us to call Capital One,” Marvin Husby said.

Capital One offered a flight credit that must be used this year. That’s a one-time voucher, so if the family books a cheaper trip than that $12,700 overseas trip, the leftover credit will go down the drain.

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg said the Husbys are not experiencing a unique problem.

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“There are a lot of people out there who use their points to redeem for tickets or for experiences and got shut out because of the pandemic, and they’re still fighting to get that redeposited to their account,” Greenberg said.

Capital One told us they can’t just refund the points because the Husbys cancelled the flight before the airline did, but the Husbys say that’s not how they remember it.

They showed us an April 15 email from Capital One Travel saying, “Your upcoming flight itinerary… has been changed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions,” and, “To redeem your credit, you must call into the Travel Center to rebook.”

We sent that to Capital One and asked why a passenger who canceled would get that notice. We were waiting to hear back as of Wednesday morning.

“Somebody should be giving us our money back,” Marvin Husby said. “We didn’t cancel the flight.”

Whoever canceled first, it’s been a swing and a miss for the Husbys.

They say when the series was cancelled, the Cubs at least refunded them for the tickets.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice last year reminding airlines that if they canceled the flight, the customer is entitled to a refund.

We also reached out to American Airlines. They said Capital One is responsible for the refund since the tickets were originally purchased through them.

“American Airlines refund policy states that in this case, a refund is available through the original point of purchase – not through the airline,” the airline said. “We encourage the customer to contact Capitol One to resolve the issue.”

When we followed up with Capital One, they insisted again that their records indicate the Husbys canceled before the airline did. But despite our questions, the bank did not explain why a passenger who cancelled would get a notice from Capital One Travel in April saying the flight was “changed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions that are in place in the US and other countries.”

Capital One said in a statement: “Airline policies vary and not all cancellations will qualify for credits or refunds, but we recommend consumers check the airline’s website for up-to-date information about their policies and flight cancellation options. In cases where a customer feels that services were not delivered, Capital One is always willing to initiate a dispute on the customer’s behalf.”

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Tim McNicholas