Proposed rule by Department of Transportation would strengthen consumer protections for airline passengers
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a notice of a proposed rule that would provide additional protections for consumers who experience flight cancellations or delays. These protections include refunds for "significant" changes in a flight.
In a statement, DOT said that customers are experiencing an increasing level of frustration with air travel post-pandemic. The rules are designed to push airlines to focus on customer service.
“When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines.”
Under the proposed rule, significant changes to a passenger's flight itinerary - those that entitle the passenger to a refund, would include:
- Changes that affect the departure and/or arrival times by three hours or more for a domestic flight or six hours or more for an international flight;
- Changes to the departure or arrival airport;
- Changes that increase the number of connections in the itinerary; and
- Changes to the type of aircraft flown if it causes a significant downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities available onboard the flight.
The proposal would also require that airlines and ticket agents provide passengers flight credits or vouchers that are valid indefinitely 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. Further, under the proposal, airlines and ticket agents that receive significant government assistance related to a pandemic would be required to issue refunds, in lieu of non-expiring travel credits or vouchers.