Cancelled Flights? New DOT rules mean automatic refunds for passengers, thanks to Biden govt - Hindustan Times
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Cancelled Flights? New DOT rules mean automatic refunds for passengers, thanks to Biden govt

ByAditi Srivastava
Apr 25, 2024 10:50 AM IST

“The final rule puts an end to the bait-and-switch tactics some airlines use to disguise the true cost of discounted flights,” DOT rules out new laws

Turbulent travel days might just hit a smooth patch. Thanks to the Department of Transportation's (DOT) new rules. Gone are the days of airline monopolies, as the Biden administration announced new rules on passenger protections Wednesday. The recent development mandates airlines to automatically provide full cash refunds rather than wait for customer requests. Here's everything you need to know before your next trip.

American Airlines planes at Terminal B of LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in the Queens borough of New York, US, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. American Airlines Group Inc. is expected to release earnings figures on April 25. Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)
American Airlines planes at Terminal B of LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in the Queens borough of New York, US, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. American Airlines Group Inc. is expected to release earnings figures on April 25. Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

US airlines to automatically refund customers for cancelled flights

"These rules are not only critical but also common sense," said William McGee, senior fellow for aviation and travel, who was present at the event and praised the government's move (via post). The process reportedly took more than a year to finally become a rule. In addition to full refunds from airlines in case of cancellation, passengers will also get full refunds when their flights are changed drastically, when their bags are delayed, and when they don’t get the inflight amenities they paid for, such as Wi-Fi.

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As per Pete Buttigieg (Transportation Secretary), “Passengers deserve to get their money back when an airline owes them — without headaches or haggling.”

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When will the new rule take effect?

According to the Transportation secretary, most of these rules are likely to go into effect in about six months, while others will start in a year. This timeline might be disappointing for those planning summer vacations but good news for those who have already booked vacations during Thanksgiving.

The problem dates back to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s still a persistent problem for many passengers, who complain of late changes and abrupt cancellations. In fact, 87% of air travel service complaints during the same period were about airlines and ticket agents denying or delaying refunds, which led the government to act.

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New DOT rules- Scrapping ‘surprise junk fees.’

In addition to refunds, the new rules aim to make flight pricing more transparent and equitable for travellers. Which means, scrapping “surprise junk fees.” Airlines and online travel booking platforms will now be required to disclose additional fees for items such as checked baggage, carry-on baggage, and rescheduling or cancellation of reservations. These additional fees must be transparent and easily accessible, not hidden behind misleading links. The new rules also target unfair practices such as charging parents extra to sit next to young children or wheelchair users for additional space.

“The final rule puts an end to the bait-and-switch tactics some airlines use to disguise the true cost of discounted flights,” DOT said in a new release. “Prior to the rule, some airlines were offering deceptive discounts that consumers may have believed applied to the full fare that was being advertised but only applied to a small portion of the ticket price.” It added.

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