Department of Transportation Warns Airlines Again Over Refunds
The U.S. Department of Transportation is once again telling airlines that they are required to offer customers refunds for canceled flights. This is the second warning for airlines, after the first one in April.
DoT said is continues to receive a high volume of air travel service complaints and inquiries regarding the matter. In a typical month, “the Department receives approximately 1,500 air travel service complaints and inquiries. However, in March 2020 and April 2020, more than 25,000 air travel service complaints and inquiries were filed, many of which concern refunds” the Enforcement Notice says.
As explained in the Department’s Enforcement Notice issued on April 3, 2020, airlines have an obligation to provide a refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels or significantly changes the passenger’s flight, and the passenger chooses not to accept an alternative offered by the carrier. However, neither the term “significant change” nor “cancellation” is defined in regulation or statute. Based on the Aviation Enforcement Office’s review of the refund policies and practices of U.S. and foreign air carriers, airlines define “significant change” and “cancellation” differently when fulfilling their obligation to provide refunds.
The notice also provides guidance and more information for travelers. While airlines must give refunds when the carrier cancels flights, refunds are not required when a passenger cancels a flight. In those instances, airlines usually offer credits for future travel and they are waiving cancellation and change fees due to the pandemic.