The Department of Transportation has proposed new rules to make it easier for travelers to get refunds for canceled or delayed flights, CBS News reports.
The department released the proposed rule in a statement Wednesday, saying that “if adopted, it would significantly strengthen protections for consumers seeking refunds for airline tickets.”
The rules are open for a 90-day comment period ending November 1.
Airline analyst Samuel Engel, senior vice president of Aviation ICF, predicted that airlines will not go quietly into the new rules.
“I’m sure there will be a strong response,” he said businessman.
“Airlines don’t like being told how to handle their customers,” he added.
Consumers, and airlines, have been hit by tough winds this summer.
The entrepreneur Emily Rella detailed a 14-plus hour day at New York’s LaGuardia Airport in late June, where she was one of 1,000 cancellations that day due to weather and staffing issues.
Another couple got stuck in Mexico in late July and ran out of heart medication, Insider reported.
Before that, the DOT rule required carriers to reimburse customers if they canceled their flights, but that was often downplayed or ignored, CBS News reported.
The DOT said it has received an “avalanche” of complaints since 2020 from travelers who were unable to get ticket refunds after delays, cancellations or problems related to the pandemic. He added that previous rules about when passengers could get refunds from carriers were less clear.
The new proposed rules are as follows. Customers can get a refund if their trip is “significantly” changed or cancelled, which means:
- The departure or arrival of a domestic flight was changed by three hours or more
- An international departure or arrival with a change of six hours or more
- When the number of connections increases
- If the departure or arrival location is changed
- If the type of aircraft on which the consumer is boarding is changed and “results in a significant reduction in the air travel experience or amenities available on board the flight.”
Also, if people can’t travel because of, say, a pandemic that closes a border, a carrier would have to give customers an indefinite voucher.
Going even further, “airlines and ticket agents that receive significant government assistance related to a pandemic should issue refunds, rather than credits or travel vouchers that do not expire,” the department said.
Delta and United declined to comment on the proposed rules businessman and referred to the industry group Airlines for America, which did not respond to a request for comment.
“We received the DOT regulations on Wednesday and our teams are in the process of reviewing the proposed rules,” Southwest said in a statement emailed to Entrepreneur. He also referred to its announcement last week that the airline would eliminate expiration dates on flight credits.