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Airlines are going to start giving out automatic refunds for delayed or canceled flights — here's who and what will be eligible

Grace Dean   

Airlines are going to start giving out automatic refunds for delayed or canceled flights — here's who and what will be eligible
  • New regulations will require airlines to provide refunds for delayed or canceled flights.
  • The refunds, which airlines have to implement over the next six to 12 months, must be automatic and prompt.

Airlines are going to be required to provide automatic refunds for delayed or canceled flights under new Department of Transportation regulations, announced on Wednesday.

The regulations, which airlines must adapt to over the next six to 12 months, define a range of criteria that they say constitutes a "significant change" to a flight that would entitle a customer to a refund.

The new rules also entitle passengers to automatic refunds for delays to checked bags and for airlines' failure to provide extra services that customers have paid for.

The airlines will have to provide refunds that are automatic, meaning passengers don't have to request them, and prompt, which the DOT describes as within seven business days for credit card purchases and 20 calendar days for other payment methods.

The refunds must be in whatever payment method the passenger originally used, whether cash, credit card, or airline miles. The refunds should only be provided as vouchers or travel credits if the passenger explicitly accepts them.

The DOT says that the refund must also be paid in full, including all government-imposed taxes and fees and airline-imposed fees.

Passengers will be eligible for a refund in the case of:

  • A canceled flight.

  • A domestic flight delayed by at least three hours.

  • An international flight delayed at least six hours.

  • A domestic flight scheduled to depart at least three hours earlier than the original departure time.

  • An international flight scheduled to depart at least six hours earlier than the original departure time.

Customers will be eligible for a refund in the case of the following if it means that they no longer wish to undertake the journey:

  • A change in the departure or arrival airport.

  • An increase in the number of connections.

  • A downgrade to a lower class of service.

  • A change to a connection at a different airport that is less accessible for a person with a disability.

  • A change to an aircraft that is less accessible for a person with a disability.

Passengers will be eligible for a refund of their checked bag fee if their bag is delayed and they file a mishandled baggage report, provided:

  • The checked bag isn't delivered within 12 hours of a domestic flight arriving at the gate.

  • The checked bag isn't delivered within 15 hours of an international flight that's 12 hours long or less arriving at the gate.

  • The checked bag isn't delivered within 30 hours of an international flight that's more than 12 hours long arriving at the gate.

Passengers will be eligible for refunds of paid-for extra services that then aren't provided by the airline, including:

  • Advance seat selection.

  • Seat upgrades.

  • Transportation of checked or carry-on baggage.

  • Airport lounge access.

  • In-flight entertainment and WiFi.

  • In-flight meals, beverages, and snacks.

  • In-flight blankets and pillows.

Customers will be eligible for travel credits or vouchers in the following cases related to serious communicable diseases:

  • If they're restricted or prohibited from traveling by a governmental entity or are required to quarantine for a substantial portion of the trip.

  • If they're advised by a medical professional not to travel during a public health emergency to protect themselves from a serious communicable disease, in the case of the ticket being purchased before the public health emergency was declared.

  • If they're advised by a medical professional not to travel, irrespective of a public health emergency, because they have or are likely to have contracted a serious communicable disease.

The travel credits or vouchers must be valid for at least five years. Airlines have 12 months to meet the new DOT requirements.



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