NewsLocal News


U.S. Department of Transportation proposes new refund rules for flight delays, cancellations

Posted at 5:08 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 20:29:29-04

DENVER – The U.S. Department of Transportation is continuing to gather public feedback as it creates new rules for airlines regarding customer refunds for delays and cancellations.

“Historically, if your flight is canceled, the airlines have been required to refund you. But they've sort of challenged that a little bit. It's not always been clear what kind of cancellation is covered,” said Skyler McKinley, AAA regional director of public affairs.

McKinley said the USDOT is working to clearly define what constitutes as a significant delay or cancellation, as well as when a customer should receive a refund.

Right now, the USDOT's proposal defines a significant delay as three hours or more for a domestic flight and six hours or more for international flights. The new rules would also allow customers to cancel their flight plans and receive a refund for certain reasons.

“First ones to consider are health-related new rules, which would allow passengers to cancel a flight, for example, and get a refund in the form of airline credit if they've got COVID-19,” McKinley said.

McKinley said historically, airlines have decided for themselves when to give cash refunds or vouchers, but that, too, could change under the proposed rules.

“I think for a lot of consumers, airline credit is not the same thing as cashback. And that's something that the Department of Transportation realizes,” McKinley said. “Also hidden in these rules is a really important consideration for travelers. In addition to stipulating what a delay is, know that you can also get a refund, for example, if they add a connection to your flight, if your travel plans are changed by your airline where a connection is added. If you were expecting a certain degree of service and amenities on an aircraft, and they downgrade that aircraft, you're also entitled to the same refund.”

U.S. Department of Transportation proposes new refund rules for flight delays, cancellations

According to Bureau of Transportation data, 20% of flights have been delayed and another 3% have been canceled so far this year.

“My flight here was delayed by over three hours,” passenger James Reynolds said after arriving at Denver International Airport Tuesday. “I heard a bunch of people complaining because there were a bunch of connecting flights that were on that plane, and everybody was missing them.”

Reynolds said he would like to see airlines provide better customer service.

“I'm caught in a catch 22. I am not for more regulation, but then again, you know, the airports, the airlines have kind of a monopoly on this,” Reynolds said.

Another passenger, Lemar DeGuzman, who has also faced recent delays, said he wants more regulation.

“I definitely think it's a step towards, like, the right direction,”DeGuzman said. “So just recently, we had a company trip to San Diego. And like, we're flying around, and it's really stressful because there were delays and such. There's always, like, a risk of, like, losing out on your plans.”

It could be several months before the new rules become law.

For the next 90 days, the USDOT is collecting public comments on the proposal.