Getting A Refund From Air Belgium Is… About What You’d Expect

I have a really surprising update, guys. You’re not going to believe this. After Air Belgium canceled my flight three times, it’s really hard to get a refund from them. Who would’ve thought?!

Let’s step back for a moment.

Air Belgium is the Charleroi-based airline that began flying between Charleroi and Hong Kong in early June. Their strategy was to operate a hub in Charleroi and fly to several points in China. They started with Hong Kong, but their plan was to eventually add destinations in mainland China.

flew Air Belgium from Charleroi to Hong Kong and had a lovely flight, though I still found their business model to be whack from day one.

In late September, Air Belgium announced that they’d discontinue scheduled flights between Charleroi and Hong Kong. They claimed that they were “temporarily pausing” the flight, and that it would resume next year.

They said that in the meantime they’d move forward with launching more flights to mainland China, and they seem to be planning a new route to Zhengzhou soon (or something).

There were reports that the airline was on the brink of liquidation, but that hasn’t happened.

Well, I’ve spent the past several weeks trying to get a refund from Air Belgium. The airline actually canceled my flight three times:

  • First I was scheduled to fly from Charleroi to Hong Kong shortly after launch, but then they delayed service by several weeks, causing my flight to be canceled
  • Then my return flight from Hong Kong to Charleroi was canceled on the rescheduled date
  • Then Air Belgium canceled scheduled flights altogether

So given that the airline no longer operates scheduled flights:

  • I contacted them on September 21 to ask for a refund corresponding to the return portion of my ticket, which was never flown
  • I never heard back, so emailed again on October 5
  • I got a response on October 8 saying that “the refund of your inbound and taxes will be processed within 2 days on the original card of payment”
  • I followed up on October 18, as the refund hadn’t processed
  • They responded on the same day saying that my information was being forwarded to the financial department
  • The next day they responded saying “it looks like our finance department cannot credit your Visa card, can you provide me your bank account number?”
  • Perhaps against my better judgment, I sent them my bank account info
  • I followed up again yesterday since I still didn’t have any sort of a credit or refund, and they responded right away saying that they’ll contact me as soon as they “received an answer from our financial department”

At this point I’m just following up for giggles, since it seems they’re doing everything they can to avoid refunding a portion of the ticket. But hey, I’m going to be persistent for entertainment if nothing else.

I would just file a dispute on my credit card, but I believe that can only be done for a period of 60 days, unless I’m missing something?

Over/under on me ever getting a refund here? 😉

Comments

  1. “Who would’ve thought?!”

    They’re Belgian. Meaning refunds take months to years. I’m still waiting for my partial refund of a rail ticket from June. They finally acknowledged receipt of the documentation after four months, then asked for my credit-card number to process the refund. D-oh how about refunding it to the same card on file, boneheads.

    Don’t forget the inane slowness of Belgian bureaucrats is what keeps employment levels high, by creating layers and layers of bureaucracy in which nobody knows who reports to whom and no individual bears any particular responsibility for anything.

    PS Barclaycard made my temporary refund permanent several weeks ago … they are familiar with the Belgian style of doing business

  2. Inform them you will refer to the Belgian enforcement body if they won’t refund you within a reasonable time frame.

    Flights to China. Pathetic. They can’t make Hong Kong work and will try somewhere else ? Best they simply operate as a charter carrier

  3. Thank You for flying the corrupt Air Belgium
    Refunds as due will be processed in a passengers lifetime or ours whatever comes first

  4. Sounds like you will be an unsecured creditor in bankruptcy at some point soon… which might be fun for your blog! I would keep after them for that reason.

  5. You can definitely still charge back because it was for a service to be delivered at a later date. I would do that ASAP. I don’t know why $1,000 is just shits and giggles. That’s real money for some of your more working class readers.

  6. @ Ben– 60 days? Where did you get that idea? Never heard that. I would have filed the dispute on Oct 11.

  7. I don’t think you’re limited by the 60-day rule in this case since it was an advance payment for a service not delivered on the date promised. I think you perhaps have 60 days from your scheduled travel date. In any event, I’ve had some luck with disputes even outside of the technical window by calling and explaining the situation. It’s worth a shot anyway.

  8. Lol, you don’t have to explain anything to them. They should have automatically processed your refund after cancellling scheduled flights without any correspondence or time-wasting, and by not doing so they clearly show they are not acting in good faith, as well as not being reasonable with their refund timeframe.
    I would actually tell them I’m about to initiate official criminal proceedings and report them and their management for fraud.
    It’s the only approach that works in the wonderful country of Russia where I’m from, so I’m used to that sort of thing.

  9. Issuing credit or refunds directly to a bank account is very common in EU.
    While Europeans are used to dealing with IBAN numbers, almost everyone that deals with Americans is aware of our system with routing number and account number.
    A major German hotel proactively chose to refund my laptop which was one of many stolen while under their supervision. I chose to trust them with my account numbers and the credit was within hours.

  10. Ben, I landed yesterday in HK… and was surprised to see the Air Belgium parked at a gate. Any reason why that would be?

  11. The rules of Visa allow a chargeback to happen years back. Do not hesitate to dispute it with your bank. You will get credited right away and then the airline has a short period of time to respond as to whether they agree that the chargeback is correct or give a rebuttal why you are not entitled to the refund. However the rules usually are in favor of the cardholder. I have processed credit cards in hotels for years so I am very familiar with the process. From what I can tell you should have no problem getting the refund.

  12. @Lucky I would agree with @Gene. No need to wait. Based on my experience with Chase and AMEX, as long as it is processed, you can file a dispute. Sometimes, they will ask if you tried to settle it with the merchant before escalating it to them. Other times, they will help straight away. Not in this case, but if it were for a very small amount, they will just automatically refund the money straight away especially to retain loyal, long-standing customers.

  13. The rules for chargeback are set forth by Visa. Their rules state that you must initiate the dispute, “Within 120 days of the date the cardholder was informed that the goods/services would not be provided, not to exceed 540 calendar days from transaction.” You should still be able to dispute.

  14. “Inform them you will refer to the Belgian enforcement body if they won’t refund you within a reasonable time frame.”

    Lol they’ll take 5 to 7 years to research the issue then reply back the documentation has been misplaced.

  15. @ SergeT
    The aircraft you saw was the stopover of an Air Belgium charter flight on its way back from Noumea to Paris CDG. It seems to have been in Noumea for 6 days, having flown out the same (reverse) route. Nice layover for the cabin crew!
    So there’s obviously still a revenue stream for them, what with this and their ongoing BA operation. But 2 of their 4 aircraft are now in storage at Perpignan…

  16. I wonder if the EU will end up investigating the airline for dodgy dealings with the Chinese?
    No – wait…. EU = Brussels = Belgium

  17. @Steven M lol yeah, Russian ones are even worse. But the statement that you will report them/are going to report them does wonders 90% of the time, at least in my experience, without any need to actually report someone.

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