Transportation Department, Senators Seek New Consumer Protections

In two separate announcements, two senators and the Transportation Secretary proposed new laws and rules which would help travelers get money back when plans go sour.

New Rules Come in Form of Senate Bill, Transportation Department Notice

The first of the two proposals were introduced to Congress on Monday, August 1, 2022, backed by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), alongside Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD). The Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellation Act would require major air carriers to offer cash refunds if a flight is significantly delayed or cancelled, while allowing flyers to cancel their ticket and get a refund up to 48 hours before their travel.

“Just as hotels often allow consumers to cancel their reservation and receive a full refund, the Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations Act would extend a similar requirement for air travel,” Sen. Markey said in a press release. “These airlines must get their heads out of the clouds and deliver the effective and accountable service that travelers deserve.”

If passed, the law would require airlines to offer a travel voucher to flyers if it includes a “clear and conspicuous notice of the flyer’s right to a cash refund and the voucher is valid,” while extending the validity indefinitely. The Transportation Department would be able to impose a $1,000 civil penalty on airlines who do not offer a cash refund on a significantly delayed or cancelled flight within 30 days of the flight date.

The second rule was proposed by the Transportation Department on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would provide clear definitions for “significant changes” to a flight, which include:

  • Changes of three hours or more for a domestic flight, or six hours or more for international flights.
  • Changes to departure or return airports.
  • Changes which increase the number of stops on an itinerary.
  • Changes to aircraft type if it “causes a significant downgrade” in experience or amenities.

The rule would also change the definition of a “cancelled flight” to one that was published in a computer reservation system, but not actually operated by an airline.

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

Both rules are in the evaluation process, with no timeline on when they could be implemented.

Source: Cheap Domestic & International Flights

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