DoT to Airlines: Refund Passengers for Cancelled Flights

DOT to Airlines: Refund Passengers for Cancelled Flights


Finally. The Department of Transportation is Reminding Airlines to Refund Passengers for Cancelled Flights, not just give them a travel credit.

There have been plenty of complaints to DOT and even to the FTC over coronavirus-related policies, including airlines not refunding passengers for flights the airlines have cancelled or seriously delayed, and no wonder. United has revised its policy several times (see United New Schedule Policy: Refund After 1 Year) and JetBlue is only refunding passengers for schedule changes of >24 hours 1 minute. In other words, if JetBlue doesn't fly your original flight and puts you on a flight 24 hours earlier or 24 hours later, all you can get is Travel Bank credit, not a refund.

Fortunately, the Department of Transportation is stepping into the fray and reminding all airlines that for flights touching the U.S. that they (bolding mine) “have a longstanding obligation to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger's flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.”

The footnote references 76 Fed. Reg. 23110-01, at 23129 from April 25, 2011:

“We reject some carriers'…assertions that carriers are not required to refund a passenger's fare when a flight is cancelled if the carrier can accommodate the passenger with other transportation options after the cancellation. We find it to be manifestly unfair for a carrier to fail to provide the transportation contracted for and then to refuse to provide a refund if the passenger finds the offered rerouting unacceptable…and he or she no longer wishes to travel…the Department's Enforcement Office has advised carriers that refusing to refund a non-refundable fare when a flight is canceled and the passenger wishes to cancel is a violation of 49 U.S.C. 41712 (unfair or deceptive practices) and would subject a carrier to enforcement action.”

Here's the DoT Enforcement Notice, which means:

  • All U.S. and foreign airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more seats on flights that touch the U.S. must comply
  • A refund must be offered to passengers in the event of a scheduled flight that the airline cancels or significantly delays
  • The refund includes the ticket price, tax, and all optional services purchased
  • The obligation to refund applies regardless of the cause or whether it's within the airline's control, so airline can't refuse to refund due to government travel bans

So if United, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Air Canada, or another airline cancels your flight to, from or within the U.S. and refuses you a refund back to your credit card, reference the DoT Enforcement Notice, and only if they still don't cooperate, file a Department of Transportation Complaint and a credit card chargeback.

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2 years ago

Does this rule also apply to domestic flights tickets that are not cancelled but cannot be used either because the international flight to the USA has been cancelled?