Airlines must give automatic refunds for all canceled flights and those delayed over 3 hours: DOT


(NEW YORK) — Good news for airline travelers: the Department of Transportation on Wednesday announced it is rolling out new rules that will require airlines to automatically give cash refunds to passengers for canceled and significantly delayed flights.

The delays covered would be more than three hours for domestic flights and more than six hours for international flights, the agency said. This includes tickets purchased directly from airlines, travel agents and third-party sites such as Expedia and Travelocity.

“This is a big day for America’s flying public,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a Wednesday morning news conference. Buttigieg said the new rules — which require prompt refunds — are the biggest expansion of passenger rights in the department’s history.

DOT will also require airlines to give cash refunds if your bags are lost and not delivered within 12 hours.

Airlines will have six months to comply with the new rules.

“Passengers deserve to get their money back when an airline owes them — without headaches or haggling,” Buttigieg said in a statement.

The DOT said it is also is working on rules related to family seating fees, enhancing rights for wheelchair-traveling passengers for safe and dignified travel and mandating compensation and amenities if flights are delayed or canceled by airlines.

Buttigieg said the DOT is also working to protect airline passengers from being surprised by hidden fees — a move he estimates will have Americans billions of dollars every year, he said.

According to DOT, passengers are entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled or significantly changed, and they do not accept alternative transportation or travel credits offered. Also included are the significantly delayed baggage return and extra services paid for and not provided, such as Wi-Fi, seat selection or inflight entertainment.

Buttigieg reiterated that refund requirements are already the standard for airlines, but the new DOT rules hold the airlines to account and makes sure passengers get the “refunds that are owed to them.”

“Airlines are not enthusiastic about us holding them to a higher standard,” Buttigieg said, adding that he “knows they will be able to adapt to this.”

Airlines for America, the trade association for the country’s leading passenger and cargo airlines told ABC News in a statement that its members “offer a range of options — including fully refundable fares.” Is said consumers are “given the choice of refundable ticket options with terms and conditions that best fit their needs at first search results.”

According to their data, A4A member carriers issued $43 billion in customer refunds between the years 2020-2023.

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