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Airlines Must Refund Passengers for Canceled Flights During the COVID-19 Crisis

News Airports + Flying
by Eben Diskin Apr 6, 2020

Having your travel plans canceled due to circumstances beyond your control like the current COVID-19 health crisis is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s even worse when you don’t even get refunds for your flights. Many airlines had been issuing travel credits, instead of full refunds, for flights canceled due to the coronavirus, but the federal government is directing airlines to give passengers full refunds.

According to an enforcement notice from the US Department of Transportation, “The Department is receiving an increasing number of complaints and inquiries from ticketed passengers, including many with non-refundable tickets, who describe having been denied refunds for flights that were cancelled or significantly delayed.”

When airlines cancel or delay flights by a significant amount of time, passengers are entitled to full refunds if they do not accept the alternative travel schedule offered by the carrier, and now airlines are being held to that rule.

Many passengers have been complaining to federal authorities that they have only been offered flight credits or vouchers which are not currently usable since the number of flights have dramatically been reduced.

The enforcement notice from the US Department of Transportation emphasizes that “passengers should be refunded promptly when their scheduled flights are cancelled or significantly delayed. Airlines have long provided such refunds, including during periods when air travel has been disrupted on a large scale, such as the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and presidentially declared natural disasters. Although the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, the airlines’ obligation to refund passengers for cancelled or significantly delayed flights remains unchanged.”

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