Federal government warns airlines to fly right when it comes to customer refunds


WASHINGTON- There’s been a 96% drop in air travel since the pandemic started. leaving millions of passengers wondering what options they have.

Now the U.S. Department of Transportation is warning airlines to follow the law when it comes to getting people their money back.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao says it hasn’t been easy for flyers as the coronavirus has disrupted their travel plans.

“What we’ve been finding is that the airlines have been conducting their refund policies differently, and so it was confusing to the passenger,” said Chao.

Chao says the DOT received more than 25,000 complaints from air travelers in March and April. Last week, her department issued a second enforcement notice to airlines.

“Our rules require that if an airline cancels a flight, the passenger is entitled to a prompt refund,” Chao said.

However, that rule does not apply when passengers change their own plans.  Even there, Chao is urging airlines to be more understanding.

But Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal says airlines have been anything but flexible.

“They are, forgive me, screwing, the very taxpayers who provided a bailout to them,” said Blumenthal, (D) Connecticut. “Telling them they should take vouchers.”

He says if passengers decide it’s not safe to fly, they still ought to get full refunds.

“Passengers should not be penalized for doing the right thing,” said Blumenthal.  

Chao says by law, air carriers must be truthful with all passengers.

“And if they’re not, they will face the enforcement action of the U.S. Department of Transportation,” said Chao.

But despite DOT guidance, each airline still has its own refund or voucher policy.  You can look for it in the fine print on your ticket.

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