DoT Clarifies that Airlines Must Give Full Refunds not Voucher for Cancelled Flights
The Department of Transportation clarified on Friday that airlines must give customers refunds when flights are canceled or significantly delayed during the coronavirus pandemic. The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions).
This applies to U.S. and foreign airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States.
The clarification comes after many airlines are trying to avoid giving out any cash refunds during the pandemic and instead forcing customers to take vouchers or credits for future travel in some cases.
The statement from the Department of Transportation said that “it 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 canceled or significantly delayed.”
DoT says that the focus is not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the carrier’s control, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger. Because the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, the Aviation Enforcement Office will exercise its enforcement discretion and provide carriers with an opportunity to become compliant before taking further action.