Transportation Department proposes more stringent guidelines for airline company refunds after problems rise

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Travelers at LaGuardia Airport in New York on June 30, 2022.

Leslie Josephs|CNBC

The Transportation Department on Wednesday proposed more stringent guidelines on when airline companies would need to compensate guests for canceled or postponed flights, a relocation that follows a rise in tourist problems after Covid-19 roiled flight.

Air tourists are presently entitled to a refund if their flights are canceled or “significantly” altered or postponed and they pick not to take a trip. But the company had actually not specified what makes up a substantial modification.

The Transportation Department is now proposing to specify that as a departure or arrival time that’s off by a minimum of 3 hours for domestic flights, or a minimum of 6 hours for worldwide flights. Travelers would likewise be entitled to a refund if the routing modifications or if a connection is included, along with if a modification in airplane triggers a “significant downgrade” in features or other functions.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has actually openly advised airline companies in current weeks over an uptick in flight cancellations and hold-ups, while market executives and the Federal Aviation Administration have actually pointed fingers over who’s to blame.

Some Democratic legislators have actually required much better customer securities for air tourists.

Complaints about airline company refunds represented 87% of the 102,560 problems the DOT visited 2020 and about 60% of the 49,958 problems in 2021.

The DOT likewise proposed needing airline companies to offer flight credits or coupons without expiration dates if guests can’t fly since of Covid-19, consisting of lockdowns, travel limitations or individual health factors.

“When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” Buttigieg stated in a press release.

Airlines for America, which represents big airline companies like American, United, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and others, decreased to comment.

The pandemic and plunge in flight need triggered some airline companies to make their tickets more versatile. For example, American, United and Delta, eliminated ticket modification charges for basic economy tickets in 2020.

And recently, Southwest, which didn’t charge ticket modification charges prior to the pandemic either, stated the coupons it problems will never ever end.

The DOT’s proposed guidelines are open to public remark for 90 days.

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