U.S. DOT: Airlines Must Now Refund Delayed, Canceled Flights

Canceled flights | Image by IronHeart/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday that airlines will now be required to automatically provide refunds to passengers when a flight is canceled or significantly delayed.

Airlines will also be required to provide refunds for significantly delayed checked bags or failing to provide extra services that the passenger purchased, a news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) states.

“Passengers deserve to get their money back when an airline owes them – without headaches or haggling,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Flights are deemed to be “significantly changed” when the arrival or departure time is altered by three or more hours on domestic flights and six or more hours on international flights.

Similarly, passengers who file a mishandled bag report will be entitled to a refund if the delayed bags do not arrive within 12 hours for domestic flights or between 15 and 30 hours for international flights.

The DOT announced multiple other policy changes that target the flight purchasing process in addition to those regulating flights, bags, and extra services.

For example, airlines will now be required to inform passengers upfront about baggage, change, and cancellation fees and explain the fees to consumers before making a purchase.

This information must also be provided to third-party companies that provide flight information to consumers.

Additionally, airlines will now be required to guarantee that those who purchase flight tickets will receive a seat. Further, they must inform passengers that ticket purchasers are not required to pay an additional fee to select and guarantee a seat on a flight.

The DOT also stated that airlines must end discount bait-and-switch tactics to encourage passenger purchases. This means that airlines will be prohibited from “advertising a promotional discount off a low base fare that does not include all mandatory carrier-imposed fees.”

“Today’s announcements will require airlines to both provide passengers better information about costs before ticket purchase, and promptly provide cash refunds to passengers when they are owed — not only saving passengers time and money, but also preventing headaches,” Buttigieg said.

Although each new policy has a different implementation timeline, airlines must make all the changes within six to 12 months.

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