Airlines Must Refund Canceled Flights: DOT Issues Guidance

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Some of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten lately have been around canceled flights where the airline is insisting on giving a voucher despite you being owed a cash refund.

dot guidance airline refunds covid

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United has been the most notorious about this, offering only a voucher that would convert to a cash refund in 12 months. JetBlue has also been trying to force people to take vouchers. Outside the US, a great many airlines are trying the same. Air France even went as far as telling Amex to not process (legitimate!) chargebacks and Canada actually issued guidance that vouchers are acceptable at this time.

I’ve been telling people that you are entitled to a cash refund under the law. The problem is that most of us aren’t going to sue an airline for our money back .

U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Enforcement Notice Clarifying Air Carrier Refund Requirements, Given the Impact of COVID-19

Now, the DOT has issued a formal statement clarifying that US airlines must adhere to full cash refunds, not vouchers.

This new DOT guidance won’t actually help you too much when the airlines says no, but the hope is that the guidance gets airline legal teams to reconsider their own guidance. As well, if you get told no and wish to escalate, I would suggest (politely!) referencing this guidance.

If nothing else, reference to the guideline should give your comment that you will file a DOT complaint more teeth, and I’d use the same for a chargeback with the credit card issuer if that fails.

It does seem, though, that airlines in the US are taking the rule seriously  if you’ve already been issued a voucher, reach back out to the airline and state that in light of the DOT guidance you would like to have a refund.

In this situation they are actually being told they must reach out to you and offer the refund, but I have serious doubts that will occur.



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