Transportation department.  He proposed a new rule to ease the chaos of air travel for passengers

Transportation department. He proposed a new rule to ease the chaos of air travel for passengers

Amid a troublesome summer for air travel, the Department of Transportation is proposing changes to federal policy guiding flight refunds, providing more recourse for passengers when airlines cancel flights or dramatically change flight schedule, route or seat categories.

The rule, to be decided by the agency after closing a 90-day public comment period, will also require US airlines that have received pandemic aid to issue a full refund if a passenger chooses not to travel due to some coronavirus-related factors, such as a country closed to non-essential travel.

“This proposed new rule will protect the rights of travelers and help ensure that they receive the timely refunds they are entitled to from airlines,” Pete Buttigieg, the Minister of Transportation, said in a statement Wednesday announcing the proposal.

Under current DOT policy, airlines are already supposed to reimburse passengers for canceled or “significantly changed” flights. But airlines have been accused of exploiting both the ambiguity surrounding the term “significantly changed” and the fact that many air travelers don’t know they are entitled to refunds, rather than credits, for canceled flights.

The proposed policy defines “significantly changed” as a three-hour delay for a domestic flight and a six-hour delay for an international flight. The new rule will also allow passengers to get a full refund for any change at the airport of departure or the airport of destination, the addition of a layover or a change in aircraft that causes a significant seat class reduction. This week, several Democratic senators, including Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both from Massachusetts, introduced a bill with similar protections.

Air travel has been frustrating for many throughout the pandemic, but over the past year the number of delays and cancellations has increased, affecting thousands of passengers eager to travel after two years of restrictions and closures.

About 20 percent of flights on U.S. airlines have been delayed this year, 6 percent more than airlines have performed over the past two years, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking company. On high-travel weekends, airlines have canceled flights four times as much as they did in 2019.

Many travelers who are stranded or delayed have complained about the arduous process required to obtain refunds.

“It’s basically theft,” said Katherine T. Jones, 64, a nonprofit grant writer from Austin, Texas, who says she’s tired of airlines changing flights without adequate compensation.

In June, United Airlines notified Ms Jones that her layover at Newark Liberty International Airport, for the September flight from Austin to Dublin, had changed. When I looked at her itinerary, I discovered that the plane at Newark Station to Dublin had also been changed and no longer had premium economy seats, an upgrade I paid extra for in order to sit closer to fewer people. When she tried to get the money back to buy a seat on another airline, she said, the airline told her she could only get credit. This policy will change under the new rule.

“I think it’s absolutely necessary” about the proposed rule that spells out when airlines will be required to issue refunds, Ms Jones said.

The DOT proposal also requires airlines that received significant federal assistance early in the pandemic, such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and United, to issue full refunds when passengers cannot travel for certain virus-related reasons. All airlines will be required, as a minimum, to provide vouchers that do not expire when travelers are unable to fly for the pandemic-related reasons outlined in the proposal.

in August. 22, the Department of Transportation will hold an online public meeting to discuss the proposed changes.

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