In the midst of an irritating summer for air travel, the Department of Transportation is proposing changes to federal policies guiding flight refunds, giving passengers more recourse when airlines cancel flights or make significant changes to the flight schedule, route or seat categories.
The rule, on which the agency will decide after a 90-day public comment period close, would also need US airlines receiving pandemic aid to issue a full refund if a passenger chooses not to travel due to certain coronavirus-related factors, such as a country closing non-essential travel.
“This new proposed rule would protect travelers’ rights and ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines,” said Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, in a statement. pronunciation announcing the proposal on Wednesday.
below the current Ministry of Transport Under the policy, airlines are already supposed to reimburse passengers for flights that have been canceled or “significantly changed”. But carriers have been accused of exploit both the ambiguity surrounding the term “significantly changed” and the fact that many air travelers do not know that they are entitled to refunds instead of credits for canceled flights.
The proposed policy defines “significantly modified” as a three-hour delay for a domestic flight and a six-hour delay for an international flight. The new rule also entitles passengers to a full refund for any transfer at the departure or destination airport, the addition of a stopover, or a change of aircraft that causes a significant reduction in seat class. This week, several Democratic senators, including Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both of Massachusetts, introduced a bill containing similar protections.
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Air travel has been frustrating for many during the pandemic, but over the past year delays and cancellations have increased, impacting thousands of passengers eager to travel after two years of restrictions and closures.
About 20 percent of U.S. airline flights have been delayed this year, 6 percent more than airline performance in the past two years, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking company. On weekends with a lot of travel, airlines have canceled flights four times as often as in 2019.
Many stranded or delayed travelers have complained about the arduous process required to obtain refunds.
“It’s basically theft,” says Kathryn T. Jones, 64, a nonprofit grant writer from Austin, Texas, who says she’s tired of airlines changing flights without offering adequate compensation.
In June, United Airlines informed Ms Jones that her layover at Newark Liberty International Airport for a flight from Austin to Dublin in September had been changed. When she looked at her itinerary, she found that the plane on the Newark-Dublin route had also changed and no longer included premium economy seats, an upgrade she’d paid extra for to accommodate fewer people. When she tried to get a refund to buy a seat on another airline, she said, the airline told her she could only get a credit. That policy would change under the new rule.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary,” Ms Jones said of the proposed rule to clarify when airlines would have to refund.
The Department of Transportation’s proposal also requires airlines that have received significant federal aid early in the pandemic, such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and United, to issue full refunds when passengers cannot fly for certain virus-related reasons. As a minimum, all airlines should provide vouchers that do not expire when travelers are unable to fly for the pandemic-related reasons set out in the proposal.
On August 22, the Ministry of Transport will hold: an online public meeting to discuss the proposed changes.