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Airlines may soon have to reimburse you for all of those delays and canceled flights

After a summer of massive flight delays and cancelations, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposes to expand traveler rights.

Airlines may soon have to reimburse you for all of those delays and canceled flights
[Source Image: Pixabay/Pexels]

Airline travel has been pretty miserable lately. A variety of factors, including staffing shortages, inflation, and high fuel prices have contributed to a summer of less than ideal airline experiences, affecting holiday weekends in particular. Over 88,000 flights were canceled between January and May, and more than 12,000 flights were canceled over the Fourth of July weekend alone.  

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But airlines may soon be forced to pay up when flights are canceled or significantly delayed. This week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced a new proposal designed to protect consumer’s rights by expanding airline ticket refunds.

The proposal, which was posted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on Wednesday, comes at a time when post-pandemic travel is booming, and customers are being met with a barrage of delays and cancelations—but few refunds. 

If approved, the proposal would require airlines to refund passengers for canceled flights, for delayed departure times of over three hours for domestic flights (six hours for international ones), or for significant changes to a flight’s itinerary. That includes if a flight switches airports or adds stops to its schedule.

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It would also include protections for passengers who may have to change their travel plans due to “a serious communicable disease,” such as COVID-19 or Monkeypox, which the administration declared a public health emergency earlier today. The DOT is proposing that airlines offer non-expiring vouchers to any customers affected by public health emergencies or stay at home orders—though airlines receiving government funding would be required to simply give refunds. 

“If enacted, this would be the biggest expansion of travelers’ rights in decades,” Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, wrote in a Twitter thread. “[The proposal] would have saved so many people so much angst over the past 2.5 years.”

The proposal is not finalized yet. It’s under a period of public consideration for 90 days and could still be changed or withdrawn.

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