Travel demand is close to pre-pandemic levels, but airline staff shortages have caused an increase in delays, cancellations and angry customers. In response to complaints about air travel services, the US Department of Transportation has proposed new rules to better protect passengers.
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“When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably and affordably,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. “This new proposed rule would protect passengers’ rights and help them get the timely refunds they deserve from airlines.”
Under current rules, US airlines are required to pay refunds and flight coupons for cancellations and “significant changes” to flight schedules, the LA Times reported. However, the definition of “significant changes” is left open to interpretation. That’s why return policies differ, according to consumer advocates.
The new rule would define “significant change” as a change in departure and/or arrival time of three hours or more for a domestic flight and six hours or more for an international flight, the LA Times noted. This also includes changing the departure or arrival airport, increasing the number of connecting flights and changing the type of aircraft if the passenger experience is reduced.
If passengers are unable to fly due to pandemic-related reasons, then flight credits or vouchers will be valid indefinitely. The LA Times added that the rule would require airlines to give refunds instead of vouchers or travel credits if the airlines “received significant government assistance related to the pandemic.”
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If the new rule is passed, it would be “the biggest expansion of passenger rights in decades,” Scott Keyes, founder of a website that helps travelers find cheap flights, told the Washington Post.
Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but now lives outside of Ohio where she attended Ohio State University and lives with her two young children and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and the Scotsman Guide.