How To Get Your Airline Refund

Wedged in among all those sweepstakes envelopes promising million-dollar payoffs to magazine buyers, a bona fide giveaway arrived in millions of mailboxes recently. The Airlines Antitrust Litigation claim forms, stemming from the proposed $458 million settlement of a massive airline price-fixing case, guarantee discounted air travel to most flyers--with minimal hassle.

Anyone who purchased a domestic ticket on any one of nine U.S. airlines (including defunct Pan American and Midway) between Jan. 1, 1988, and June 30, 1992, to, from, or connecting through 34 major airports can file a claim. Forms were sent to 10 million flyers. If you didn't get one--or threw yours away because you couldn't wade through the legalese--send your name and address to Airlines Antitrust Litigation, P. O. Box 267, Pennsauken, N.J. 08110-0267.

Filers should receive at least $100 in discount coupons, based on an expected 2.7 million flyers filing claims, with higher payoffs going to people who flew more. The exact value of coupons each traveler receives will be prorated, depending on how many people file claims and how much each spent on air travel during the 54 months.

OPTIONS. Most flyers will get interchangeable coupons, valid for four years, good for up to 10% off any domestic round-trip fare on American, Continental, Delta, TWA, United, or USAir. On Northwest only, you can request coupons good for up to 20% off.

To nab the booty, you'll first have to choose among three options. If you've only taken a few flights, fill out Short Form A. You don't need documentation, and you'll receive the minimum payout of about $100 in coupons.

If you've flown at least five round-trips (or 10 one-way legs), consider mailing in Intermediate Form B. You'll have to detail the number of flights you took, but you won't need any proof of purchase. Your share of the settlement pot will be figured as if you had spent a total of $2,500.

Heavy flyers must sift through records and file Long Form C. Provide the dollar amount spent on qualifying air travel for each six-month period since 1988 and have documentation to back up those totals. Copies of ticket receipts or charge bills should be fine.

NO AGENTS. Later, you'll have to exchange the coupons for discounted tickets at an airline ticket counter or by mail. The settlement prohibits travel agents from selling--and earning commissions on--the $3 billion in tickets expected to be purchased with coupons.

Luckily, there's no rush to sort out the paperwork. Flyers have until Feb. 15, 1993, to return claim forms. Since your chances of bagging discount air coupons is far better than getting a $10 million check from Ed McMahon, don't forget.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.