My teenage son is locked in an unequal struggle with one of the world’s most profitable airlines, and there’s clearly going to be only one winner. He spent the money he’d saved up from two years of weekend jobs to buy a HK$5,000 (US$645) ticket from Lufthansa to fly to Hong Kong at Easter and spend a fortnight with the friends he grew up with before his final year of school in Britain. The flight, of course, was cancelled because of coronavirus. But the German airline, which made a profit of € 2 billion (US$2.2 billion) in 2019, won’t give him his money back because it has decided it needs his HK$5,000 more than he does. Under European Union law, an airline that cancels a flight must provide a refund within seven days. But because of what it calls “this unprecedented situation”, Lufthansa is refusing to do so and is instead offering a voucher for non-existent flights or the opportunity to rebook on another flight that won’t take off because of coronavirus. My son is not going to go hungry or find himself begging on the streets as a result of losing his savings. He may even learn a useful life lesson that will make him more mature, reflective and less willing to take people at their word. Lufthansa is hardly alone in this behaviour . Airlines everywhere are pleading poverty, begging their governments for bailouts and refusing to pay back money to customers whose flights they have cancelled. But with what set of warped values does a national airline suddenly decide that – after decades of law-abiding behaviour – it is now all right to break the law and keep money given to it for a service it hasn’t provided? By what perverse logic does it consider it acceptable to ground its planes but keep money from customers who paid to fly on them so it can continue to give its CEO – Carsten Spohr (annual salary € 2.7 million) – his monthly wages? This is an unprecedented situation for everyone, not just Lufthansa. People everywhere are having a hard time of it, but no one in my street has so far been mugged by a usually law-abiding neighbour who says they have been driven to crime by the financial impact of the pandemic. It’s absurd to point it out, but the rest of us haven’t resorted to theft. We’ve adjusted our lives, we’ve fallen back on whatever reserves we have and we’ve got on with things. When it’s all over, we can look back on this unprecedented situation with a sense of dignified relief … and give our future business to companies who helped us through it rather than those who used it as an excuse to plunder children’s bank accounts.