Flight canceled or delayed? Getting a refund may get easier

In response to the “flood of air travel service complaints” during the pandemic, the US Department of Transportation proposed a rule change on Wednesday to make it easier for airline passengers to Refunds for canceled or delayed flights.

As travel demand surges to near pre-pandemic levels, airlines admit they often don’t have the staff needed to operate flights, causing a spike in cancellations and delays – and Among the complaints from travelers say airlines have been slow to offer refunds.

Current rules require US airlines to pay refunds and vouchers for cancellations and “substantial changes” to flight schedules but do not explicitly define “material changes” what does it mean. As a result, refund policies vary between airlines, according to consumer advocates.

“This proposed rule will protect the interests of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from airlines,” said US Transportation Secretary Pete. Buttigieg said in a statement.

Under the proposed rule, a “significant change” could mean a change in departure and/or arrival times of three hours or more for domestic flights or six hours or more for international flights. . The definition of “significant” also includes a change to departure or arrival airport, an increase in the number of connections, and a change in aircraft type if that means a reduced passenger experience.

Under the new rules, flight credits or vouchers will be valid indefinitely when passengers are unable to fly for pandemic-related reasons, such as travel bans or border closures due to the pandemic. mandatory government. The rule also requires airlines to pay a refund, rather than a credit or travel voucher, if the company “receives substantial government support related to the pandemic”. Most of the nation’s largest carriers received funding in 2020 and 2021 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to avoid mass layoffs.

Charles Leocha, president of Travelers United, an advocacy group for airline consumers, said: “I am delighted with the fact that the Department of Transport is currently looking into this matter. But Leocha wants the agency to go further by shortening the three-hour deadline to change domestic flights to 90 minutes.

The Department of Transportation issued more than $2 million in fines against Air Canada in November 2021 for what the agency described as “extreme delays” in providing refunds. thousand consumers for flights to or from the United States were cancelled. The agency said it was pursuing fines against 10 other airlines for similar delays in paying refunds.

A spokesman for a trade group representing that country’s largest carriers declined to comment on the proposed rule but said the airlines “provide the highest level of customer service and committed to working with travelers to resolve their individual cases.”

U.S. airlines have issued nearly $13 billion in cash back in 2020 and more than $8 billion in 2021, according to trade group Airlines for America. According to the group, refund complaints from airline passengers have decreased since May 2020.

The airline trade group last month posted a statement acknowledging that airlines were still struggling to overcome problems related to the pandemic.

“The learning curve for our nation’s ‘new normal’ is steep, and US airlines are adapting and implementing long-term solutions as quickly as possible to ensure smooth operations. minus. We acknowledge that our work is not done, which is why we will continue to listen to our customers and take action to demonstrate our commitment to safety, service and you,” the post said.

Despite surging demand, airlines are struggling to return to the bright financial days before the pandemic, when most airlines reported record profits. For the first quarter of 2022, US airlines reported a net loss of $5.1 billion, according to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, an advisory panel to the Department of Transportation, will hold its first hearing on the proposed rule on August 22 in Washington, DC, but any Anyone interested can join the meeting via Zoom after registering online. Members of the public may submit comments on the proposed rules at www.regulation.gov, number DOT-OST-2022-0089.

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-08-03/refunds-for-canceled-delayed-flights Flight canceled or delayed? Getting a refund may get easier

Edmund DeMarche

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