Stranded by defunct airline -- now what?

These are turbulent times in the airline industry. And with jet fuel prices as high as they are and the tight credit crisis we might see more airlines go under. But first let's tell you what you need to do if you bought an ATA or Aloha ticket.

In less than a week, hundreds of ATA and Aloha passengers have been left standing at airports around the country with no place to go and no way to get there.

John DiScala travels over 150,000 miles a year with his Web site He says now that those travelers must scramble to get new flights or get a refund, it could be a challenge. Unfortunately ATA and Aloha have discontinued all operations and all other airlines are not obligated to honor their tickets. But if you're willing to pay extra you can buy a ticket on another airline.

Getting a refund on your ATA or Aloha ticket is a different story. If you paid by check, cash or money order you're out of luck. You can submit a claim in bankruptcy court.

And if refunds are made, you may get some of your money back, but the process could take a very long time, years perhaps. But if you paid with a credit card, things are looking up -- You can contest the charge. Here's how:

Call your credit card company and find out what information they need. When writing to them, include your account number, photocopy of the ticket or receipt.

If your ticket was partially used, identify the used and unused segments of your trip.

Also, indicate the price of the ticket and the date of purchase.

Then in your letter, state that ATA or Aloha is in bankruptcy and has discontinued all operations and that you will not receive the services that were charged to your account.

And point out you're requesting a credit according to the Fair Credit Billing Act.

If you bought your ATA ticket on the Southwest Airlines Web site, they promise to take care of you. They either re-book to another destination other than Hawaii, or give you a full refund. In the meantime, we can expect airfares to Hawaii and within Hawaii to go up, at least in the short run. So either book right away or wait.


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