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DOT proposes new airline refund rules amid travel chaos

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The Department for Transport has proposed new rules to better protect travelers if their flight is delayed, canceled or otherwise significantly changed – in response to the “barrage of complaints about air travel” the department has received since the coronavirus pandemic began , it said in a press release.

By defining when a flight can be considered canceled or significantly changed, the proposal aims to fill a gap in the Department of Transportation’s ability to prevent what it sees as unfair practices in the transportation industry and airlines to oblige consumers who they believe are victims of these practices to be reimbursed.

If it goes into effect, it would be the “biggest expansion of travelers’ rights in decades,” according to Scott Keyes, founder of a website that helps travelers search cheap flightshe wrote on Twitter.

So what does it mean for you?

What are the proposed rules?

Under the proposal, which is subject to a 90-day public consultation period, airlines and ticket sellers would have to refund consumers if they “significantly” change their flights.

This applies to domestic flights delayed by three hours or more or international flights delayed by six hours or more. It would also apply if the departure or arrival airport is changed, if additional connections are added, or if the class of service or aircraft type is changed, e.g. than expected.

If an airline published a flight in its online reservation system when the ticket was sold but ultimately did not operate the flight for any reason, it would be considered canceled under the new rules.

From traveling light to booking your flight direct with the airline, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind during particularly chaotic travel times. (Video: The Washington Post)

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

The new rules would also require airlines to issue ticket holders who decide not to travel because they are ill or are unable to travel due to government travel restrictions, including, for example, imposing a quarantine requirement on incoming passengers, with no expiration date. In the case of airlines receiving future government bailouts, the rule would require them to issue refunds instead of credits.

But there are limitations. For example, if someone books a flight but later new public health restrictions are imposed that would render the trip “pointless”, that person would be eligible for a non-expiring voucher or credit. But if someone does not check what is required for the trip, such as B. PCR tests, and cannot travel, he is not eligible.

How do they differ from the current rules?

Under current rulesTravelers to and from the United States are already eligible for a refund if their flight is canceled or significantly delayed and they choose not to take another option, or if they were involuntarily downgraded to a lower tier than what they paid for , to be demoted.

However, because the Department of Transportation does not define “substantial delay,” the question of whether travelers are eligible for a refund depended in practice on many factors “including the length of the delay, the length of the flight” and individual circumstances, it said. When a complaint is made, the individual process for the department to determine whether a refund is required takes a long time, she warns consumers.

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The lack of clarity about what constitutes a canceled or significantly delayed flight has led to “disagreements between airlines about when passengers are eligible for a refund,” the transport ministry said in the press release.

Meanwhile, passengers who choose not to travel because they are ill or are particularly susceptible to illness are generally not protected by current regulations. For this reason, people who are ill and could infect others, or people who are particularly at risk of becoming seriously ill, can still travel so as not to lose the money they spent on their ticket. “This type of action by consumers is not in the public interest,” the department said.

Welcome to the travel hell of summer with lots of gas and canceled flights

When would this take effect?

The Department of Transportation’s proposed rule still has a while to go before it can be enacted. After the period of public hearing 90 days ends, the department reviews the comments and decides whether to keep the proposed rule unchanged, modify it, or withdraw it.

Anyone can comment, including businesses that would be affected by the rule. If the rules are enacted, companies can apply for an exception, which the department will only consider if it finds that “unique circumstances were not taken into account in the rule-making”.

What rights do I have if my flight is delayed now?

Travelers have reported a spike in travel issues this summer – from canceled or delayed flights to lost luggage and strikes – as many countries eased or eliminated all pandemic-related restrictions, which has led to higher demand and airports and airlines have been unable to cope.

Have nearly 550,000 flights been delayed So far this year, the United States has operated more than twice as many such flights in all of 2021, according to the Department of Transportation. More than 88,000 flights were canceled, about 3.2 percent of all flights, compared to less than 1.6 percent of flights last year.

If your flight is one of them, the current rules still apply. For a flight arriving or departing from the United States, you are eligible for a refund if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed and you decide not to choose another option. This also applies if you are involuntarily downgraded to a lower service than you paid for.

How to get refunds from an airline if your flight is cancelled

You are also entitled to compensation if you were denied boarding because your flight was overbooked and you did not voluntarily give up your seat. Airlines are allowed to overbook flights and there is no minimum they have to offer when asking travelers if someone is willing to take a later flight. passengers have reported that airlines have offered thousands of dollars for people who voluntarily get kicked off their flights.

If you are involuntarily bumped, airlines should provide you with a form detailing your compensation claims, which are often tied to arrival at your final destination. Keep in mind that most airlines require you to be checked in or at the boarding gate by a certain time in order to be eligible for compensation over and above the cost of the flight.





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