AP

US proposes to increase refund protections for air travelers

Aug 3, 2022, 7:26 AM | Updated: 9:20 pm

FILE - A flight shows cancelled on the departures board at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airpor...

FILE - A flight shows cancelled on the departures board at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Arlington, Va. The Transportation Department is proposing to require airlines to offer passengers a refund if their flight schedule is changed significantly or the airline makes major changes to their itinerary. The proposed rule announced Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 would require airlines to give refunds if their departure or arrival time changes by three hours or more for a domestic flight or at least six hours for an international one. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Transportation Department is proposing to require airlines to offer passengers a refund if their flight schedule is changed significantly or the airline makes major changes to their itinerary.

The proposed rule announced Wednesday would require airlines to give refunds if their departure or arrival time changes by three hours or more for a domestic flight or at least six hours for an international one.

Refunds would also be due if the airline changes the passenger’s departure or arrival airport, adds stops in their itinerary, or causes “a significant downgrade” in the travel experience by switching to a different type of plane.

The rule would apply even for travelers who buy nonrefundable tickets, which usually cost less and are favored by many leisure travelers.

The proposal comes after the department was flooded with complaints by passengers whose flights were canceled or changed — or who were afraid to fly during the early months of the pandemic — and who couldn’t get refunds.

Airlines prefer to hand out travel vouchers instead of refunds.

The department proposes to require that airlines and ticket agents give vouchers that don’t expire for passengers who are told not to travel during a pandemic for health reasons or because borders are closed.

The proposal faces a public-comment period and likely opposition by airlines. Their trade group, Airlines for America, did not immediately comment.

Currently, airlines are required to offer refunds to passengers whose flights are canceled or significantly changed, but it has never defined a cancellation or significant change. Because of that, airlines have challenged the Transportation Department’s authority to force them to pay refunds.

“When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines.”

Consumer complaints filed with the department rose nearly seven-fold in 2020 from the year before, and 87% were about refunds.

The department will take public comments on the proposal for 90 days. A group that advises the department and includes consumer advocates scheduled an online meeting to discuss the rule on Aug. 22.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

1 day ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

2 days ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

3 days ago

Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

4 days ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

5 days ago

Photo: Construction vehicles are parked outside of the Station U & O building on Tuesday, June 11, ...

Haleluya Hadero, The Associated Press

Amazon adds $1.4B to affordable housing fund for regions where it has corporate offices

Amazon is adding $1.4B to a fund for building more affordable housing in regions where the company has major corporate offices.

6 days ago

US proposes to increase refund protections for air travelers