How to get a refund when your airline fails

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The collapse of Italian national airline Alitalia seems unavoidable in the next several days. This Just In was the first travel blog to warn passengers about buying tickets on the airline. We've since received many emails and blog comments from readers requesting advice on what to do.

Our friends at the Wall Street Journal's Middle Seat blog spoke yesterday with Gail Hillebrand, an attorney at Consumers Union, about how to get a refund if you're ticketed on a defunct airline.

Here are the key points:

--If you buy a ticket for a flight service you don't receive--even if it's on a foreign carrier--you're covered under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Ask your credit card issuer to remove the charges from your bill.

--A credit card dispute is only worth trying if an airline has stopped flying its planes. Cancellations on individual flights don't count.

--Credit cards offer protection. Debit cards don't.

--Write your credit card issuer within 60 days after you receive the first bill with the charge.

--Keep a copy of the letter in case you need it later to prove you sent it.

--Send the letter to your credit card issuer's special address for inquiries. Don't mail it along with your monthly payment.

--Don't pay the portion of the bill that accounts for the charge.

[hat tip to the Middle Seat]

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