After a sudden rise in complaints over airline refunds in Covid’s wake, these proposed new rules have been developed.
Delta, United, and American have made standard economy tickets more flexible to encourage bookings.
The Transportation Department proposed new rules on Wednesday for when airlines would have to compensate passengers for cancelled or delayed flights, in the wake of a surge in traveler complaints following Covid-19.
If a flight is canceled or “significantly” modified or delayed and the traveler refuses to travel, they can receive a refund. A significant change had not yet been defined by the agency.
The Transportation Department is now proposing a new rule that would define a departure or arrival time as being off by at least three hours for domestic flights, or at least six hours for international flights. A refund would also be due to travelers if a change in routing happens, as well as if a change in aircraft results in a “significant reduction” in amenities and other features.
Recently, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg publicly admonished airlines for a spike in flight cancellations and delays, but industry executives and the Federal Aviation Administration have pointed fingers.
Democratic lawmakers have called for better protections for air travelers.
Of the 102,560 complaints about airline refunds in 2020, 87% of them and 60% of the 49,958 complaints in 2021 are complaints.
The DOT proposed requiring airlines to issue vouchers or credit cards without expiration dates to passengers unable to fly because of COVI-19, including those who had to stay behind due to travel restrictions or personal health reasons.
according to Buttigieg, Americans who buy airline tickets should be able to get to their destination reliably, safely, and affordably.
Large airlines such as American, United, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, and others declined to comment.
Because of the lack of business and new outbreaks of the pandemic, some airlines began to sell more flexible tickets. American, United, and Delta recently stopped charging change fees for their standard economy tickets, as of 2020.
Southwest, which didn’t charge ticket change fees before the pandemic either, announced last week that the vouchers it issues will never expire.
The DOT’s proposed rule is available for public comment for 90 days.