The best way to get a refund when your airline’s Wi-Fi is terrible

When an airline sells you a service, you may receive a refund if it is not delivered. But when is it not worth bothering to order one?

I asked this question last week when I had serious trouble connecting to Wi-Fi during an American Airlines flight. The operator charged $17 for the privilege. I figured the hassle of getting the money back would cost over $17 in time and aggravation.

Turns out I was wrong, according to more than 100 readers who set me straight after I asked for advice in our weekly Your Money newsletter.

Almost everyone who asked for a refund when their Wi-Fi didn’t work properly got their money back. Many have even cracked the code on how to make the request in under 60 seconds.

This week, I distilled his wisdom and spoke to the major airlines and credit card companies who were willing to answer my many detailed questions.

First, some guidance from airlines on the quickest route to a refund request:

Visit You can speak to a representative on this page about a refund, or contact the airline via the email address or phone number provided.

I ended up asking American for a refund, without really knowing how. After a few minutes of scouring their website, I found a place to email the airline. The response I received offered vague platitudes but no compensation.

Readers suggested a different tactic: Find the email receipt for your Wi-Fi purchase, click reply, and ask for a refund. I tried that too, and several hours later I received an apology and an “offer” of a discount code for a Wi-Fi “pass of your choice” for a future flight. Following readers’ advice, I politely declined the offer. The response said that my refund had been processed.

According to American, the best place for any passenger to request a refund from one of its three Wi-Fi providers is the “Wi-Fi and Connectivity” page on its website.

Delta is rolling out free Wi-Fi to members of its frequent flyer program on all flights this year and next, and more than 700 aircraft already have it. For those who paid and want to request a refund, go to and click on “customer support”.

All Internet access is free on the airline, but flight attendants, at their discretion, may offer a $15 credit if Wi-Fi (or anything) is problematic.

The airline has a page on its website just for Wi-Fi refunds.

Email the airline at: But keep in mind that the airline sometimes proactively sends refunds when they know things didn’t work out well.

United will also email you a refund notice when it detects issues. If you’ve had Wi-Fi issues, the airline asks you to wait a few days for that note. If you can’t get one, go to the “refunds” page on their website.

For issues flying on a regional carrier partner, you will need to contact Intelsat, the Wi-Fi provider. Not sure if it’s a United flight or a partner flight? You should see the name of your Wi-Fi provider listed on your receipt if you purchase the service.

Is it worth asking flight attendants for help?

Yes. They can restart the system and make the Wi-Fi work or work better. On some airlines, they may also offer compensation on the spot.

How bad does the Wi-Fi have to be before I can ask for a refund without being an idiot?

I thought Alaska’s answer was reasonable:

“While we don’t have a firm policy on this, we would characterize poor Wi-Fi as not connecting for more than 20 minutes at any particular time during the flight, being unable to stream movies or video clips without multiple buffering events, or being consistently unable to send or receive emails,” Cameron Greenberg, a spokesperson, said in an email.

What happens if I simply click reply to the email receipt I received when I purchased the Wi-Fi and ask for a refund?

This can work, and it worked for me with American.

Can I push back if the first compensation offer is a coupon or frequent flyer miles?

Yes, this usually works, as I discovered with American. It’s worth a try because cashback means money back in your pocket, while miles and coupons are easy to forget. And the worst that can happen is that you get a “no” for an answer.

Why not dispute Wi-Fi charges with your credit card company if their customer service is better than the airline?

Generally, you should give any service provider a chance to resolve the issue first.

I understand it’s tempting to go straight to the card issuer. As I reported more than a decade ago in a column about the art and science of using your credit card company to dispute purchases with merchants, some industry observers believe that big banks will automatically credit their customers during disputes over such small amounts. in dollars. In other words, they might not even bother contacting the merchant.

The airlines I spoke to did not comment on this. Capital One and American Express said they investigated all disputes. Citi, which partners with American on several credit cards, declined to answer the question. Chase didn’t address the issue.

Have airlines ever refused a Wi-Fi refund request?

Rarely, it seems. But this is not an invitation to try to deceive them. They might be watching you.

“Whenever a guest reaches out, our vendor reviews their complaint,” said Greenberg of Alaska. This includes checking whether the passenger has consumed “substantially” more data than other passengers.