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What are our options if we're holding tickets on the now defunct Sabena?

Dear Anita,

I purchased a ticket from for my daughter, which turned out to be with Sabena. She traveled to the U.K. in October and was due back to the U.S. in December.

Sabena is gone, and there is a deafening silence from anyone (including Priceline) who can advise how we get a refund for the unused portion. We have made alternative arrangements to safeguard travel, but I want the money back. How do I go about claiming for the unused portion? Also, the purchase was made with a Visa debit card. Is there any guarantee with this?


Ian M.
Downers Grove, IL


Dear Anita,

What are the options when you have an international ticket purchased from Sabena airlines, which has now become bankrupt? We work with students traveling from various countries to study abroad and do have a situation where it is affecting one of our scholars return home in July. Your response would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Kelly H.
San Diego, CA

Dear Kelly and Ian,

Sabena, Belgium's state-subsidized national carrier, filed for bankruptcy in November. The airline is currently grounded and is hoping to resurrect its regional airline subsidiary Delta Air Transport (DAT)—no relation to Delta Air Lines. However, the matter is tied up in the Belgian courts, and it looks doubtful for Sabena's return to the skies—ever. Sabena said measures have been taken to cover ticket refunds, but it referred customers to its agents for more information.

If an airline goes out of business, the bad news is passengers are not guaranteed any refund by the airline. Airlines are like any other businesses that go into bankruptcy, and if you dealt directly with them and paid by cash or debit card, you become an unsecured creditor. Your only option is to join the long list of creditors, and hope at some time to see some of your money refunded.

If, however, you paid by credit card and spent more than $50, the good news is you are covered through the Fair Credit Billing Act. It's then up to the credit card company to action a retail dispute on your behalf. It could take up to six weeks but you should definitely see a refund on your card. In addition, travelers who bought their tickets through a travel agent have more protection since agents can file a claim with Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) within the specified reporting date to receive their client's refund.

With growing global concern over the future of many airlines, I highly recommend that students traveling abroad to deal with experienced and reputable student travel agencies such as STA Student Travel, and Student Universe. That way, if something happens while they are traveling, they have someone who is there to help them.

I hope I've been helpful. Happy travels!

Anita Dunham-Potter

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