Thieves stealing airline travel credits: How you can protect them

Apr 22, 2024, 10:39 PM | Updated: Apr 23, 2024, 6:46 am

Peggy Lundberg tells KSL’s Matt Gephardt about her experience of having her travel credit stolen....

Peggy Lundberg tells KSL’s Matt Gephardt about her experience of having her travel credit stolen. (Josh Szymanik, KSL TV)

(Josh Szymanik, KSL TV)

LEHI – Peggy Lundberg was all set to explore Virginia with friends until life forced abrupt changes in her travel plans

“I canceled the ticket,” Lundberg said. “American Airlines gave me full credit for it and said I had a year to use the credit.”

Seven months later, she was ready to use her $1,200+ flight credit.

“I went online to book the ticket and it wouldn’t let me book it,” she said.

Lundberg called American’s customer service pronto and got bad news. Someone had already used her credit to buy airfare in Pennsylvania for a woman with a completely different name.

Lundberg says the thief stole a credit worth more than $1,200. (Josh Szymanik, KSL TV)

“I don’t know her. Never heard of her. Don’t know anybody by that name,” Lundberg said.

It gets worse. Lundberg won’t get her credit back, even though American’s website says only she can use her flight credit since it’s her name on the original ticket.

“’I’m sorry this happened but there’s nothing we can do about it,’ is what he said,” Lundberg said of her call to American’s customer service.

That didn’t land with her, so she contacted the KSL Investigators.

Are airlines required to refund stolen credits?

Federal law can protect your credit cards or bank accounts from thieves and hackers, but those protections don’t exist for travel credits.

“It’s really a case-by-case basis,” said Katy Nastro of the travel website, Going. “There is no formal law around whether or not they need to reinstate them.”

So, how do flight credits get stolen? Often, it’s through fake travel booking websites, Nastro said.

They’re slick, often looking just like legit sites asking all the right questions with the added lure of big discounts.

“Scammers are looking to sort of get your information delivered on a silver platter,” Nastro said.

Information like names, addresses, payments and travel credit numbers.

What happened?

The KSL Investigators reached out to American Airlines to ask what happened with Peggy Lundberg’s credit.

American Airlines counter at Salt Lake International Airport. (Eddie Collins, KSL TV)

It appears in her case, the thief actually booked a ticket in Lundberg’s name using only a small portion of her flight credit. Then, American re-issued the leftover credit as trip credit which can be used by anyone.

“I would like to get my credit back,” she said.

We asked American about that, and they gave us a “no” pointing to their travel credit terms and conditions that state lost or stolen credits won’t be replaced. Passengers are told to guard those numbers “as you would cash.”

So, no credit refund for Lundberg. In a statement, an American Airlines spokesperson wrote, “Customer service is paramount to American, and we do not tolerate scammers taking advantage of our customers.”

Is there any recourse?

Nastro said travel credits vary from airline to airline, and “no” will not always be the answer. She advises if you get an answer you don’t like to politely hang up and try again.

“It doesn’t hurt to continually contact the airline,” she said. “Because it could just be that you are in the right and you need to get in touch with a person that has maybe a bit more experience with your specific case.”

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Thieves stealing airline travel credits: How you can protect them