‘I think it’s ridiculous’: Travelers facing deadlines to use COVID-19 vouchers

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A local pastor claims he’ll lose a couple thousand dollars when his airline credits from COVID-19 expire before he can travel.

Many consumers are now discovering major airlines are not extending their vouchers and are having a difficult time getting refunds.

“So, they’re asking you to travel by the end of March?” Action 9′s Todd Ulrich asked Pastor Chris Gentile, “You can’t leave the church now?”

“I could, but I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night,” Gentile replied.

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Gentile says he can’t leave his congregation and the students at Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Kissimmee, during the Easter season.

The pastor said American Airlines informed him last week that unless he used his COVID-19 flight vouchers by the end of the month, the credits would expire.

“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s completely unjust,” Gentile said.

His $2,100 vouchers are for flights that were initially scheduled for March 2020, a few weeks after COVID-19 caused him to shut down his church.

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The tickets were purchased through Expedia to fly on American Airlines. Gentile said he didn’t feel safe re-booking until now, and said the airline never sent him an expiration warning until he tried booking flights after Easter.

“They should be giving me an extended credit, so that to me is what would be right,” Gentile said.

During COVID-19, most airlines kept extending the deadlines consumers had to use the vouchers, but now most airlines are giving passengers until the end of this month or next to use the travel credits.

There are two big exceptions though. Delta and United Airlines are allowing passengers to use their vouchers through the end of this year.

Willis Orlando is an expert with Scott’s Cheap Flights, a subscription service. He tells clients to contact the airlines to see if the company will offer to extend the deadlines on the travel vouchers. If that doesn’t work, he advises travelers to book something before the deadline, then re-schedule that trip to a later date.

“Then again you cancel that, and get a brand-new voucher with a new extended deadline for the end of the year, or a year from your ticket issue date,” Orlando said.

He said consumers should make sure the ticket purchased doesn’t charge a re-scheduling fee.

Ulrich contacted Expedia and American Airlines about Gentile’s tickets. The companies said they are reviewing his voucher dispute.

Expedia also told Action 9 the expiration dates are set by the airlines not Expedia, but customers can view the latest dates on their Expedia accounts.

“What would you like American Airlines to do?” Ulrich asked Gentile.

“Extend the credit or give me my money back,” he replied.

If you can’t resolve a voucher deadline issue, consider sending a complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Expedia response:

While we wait for the specifics on Mr. Gentile’s case I wanted to share a quick tip for travelers. We’ve seen many airlines extending flight credits beyond the initial 12 or 18 months to at least two years, but now that we’re hitting that 2-year mark it does mean many people will see their flight credits expire at some point this year. The expiration dates – and decisions to extend them – are set by the airlines (not Expedia), but customers can view those dates by visiting their Expedia account and heading to the “My Coupons and Credits” page.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.