If you have travel plans for this Labor Day weekend and it involves flying, you’re probably already checking for potential delays. It’s been a bumpy ride coming back from the pandemic – with frequent flight delays and cancellations. And if you do run into an issue, getting a refund is not easy. But help may be on the way. There are new proposed rules to help passengers.
Department of Transportation proposes specific refund and voucher rules
The Department of Transportation is looking to establish rules about refunds that all airlines will have to follow. Right now, if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed, you’re supposed to get a refund – but the current rules aren’t specific about how long of a delay requires that refund. And some airlines are giving credits or vouchers instead.
“The message to airlines is you’ve got to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights and you’ve got to support passengers when they experience delays or cancellations,” said Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary.
1. Passengers eligible for a refund in any of these situations:
Your flight is canceled
Departure or arrival times are delayed by at least three hours for domestic, six for international
The number of connecting flights increases in the itinerary
Changes to the aircraft results in a downgrade to amenities offered
2. Timeline for refunds
Airlines * must * refund passengers within seven and 20 days by returning their money the same way they paid for the ticket.
3. Lodging and voucher guidelines
Buttigieg is asking airline CEOs too, at a minimum, to provide lodging for passengers stranded overnight at an airport and give out meal vouchers for delays of three hours or longer when the disruption is caused by something in the airline’s control.
At a minimum, airlines will be asked to provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or longer when it’s caused by something in the airlines’ control.
4. Pandemic-related help for passengers
Vouchers are required to issue vouchers with no expiration date when passengers are, “unable to fly for certain pandemic-related reasons, such as government-mandated bans on travel, closed borders, or passengers advised not to travel to protect their health or the health of other passengers. “
5. DOT also asks for a better explanation about fees
In addition to the proposal, the DOT also asked airlines to expand added fees up-front to passengers. For example, things like baggage fees, change and cancellation fees, and seat fees that impact families traveling with kids.
Airlines want to know what you think about proposed refund changes
The DOT wants to hear what you think about these proposed new rules. You can submit your comments online. A committee will look them over and adjust the proposal as needed.
Any comments you wish to make regarding the proposal can be submitted here under docket number DOT-OST-2022-0089. From there, the committee will examine its findings and adjust the proposal as needed. You have until November 21st to chime in.
A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group whose members include American, United, Delta, and Southwest, told NBC news airlines “strive to provide the highest level of customer service.” She said the airlines are committed to overcoming challenges including a tight labor market.
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