Airlines Required To Give ‘Automatic Refunds’ To Passengers For Delayed, Canceled Flights, DOT Says

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Fiona McLoughlin Contributor
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Airlines are now being required to give “automatic refunds” to passengers when their flights are canceled, changed or delayed, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Wednesday.

A final ruling now requires airlines to “promptly provide” refunds to passengers with automatic cash refunds, according to a DOT press release. Prior to this rule, airlines were allowed to set their own standards for what instances warranted a refund, which made refund policies differ between airlines, the DOT noted.

“The new rule makes it easy for passengers to obtain refunds when airlines cancel or significantly change their flights, significantly delay their checked bags, or fail to provide the extra services they purchased,” the press release stated.

If a flight is canceled or “significantly changed,” a passenger is now entitled to a refund if they don’t accept “alternative transportation or travel credits offered,” according to the DOT. A “significant change” is characterized by a flight time change of more than three hours for domestic flights and more than six hours for international flights.

The new ruling includes entitlement to a refund if passengers paid for an extra service and did not receive it, such as inflight entertainment, Wi-Fi, or seat selection, the release stated. (RELATED: Biden Pushes Airlines To Reimburse Delayed Flights With Meals, Hotels).

Passengers who file a mishandled baggage claim are also entitled to a refund of the checked bag fee if they do not receive their belongings within 12 hours of their domestic flight or 15-30 hours of their international flight. The timing of the international flight depends on the length of the flight, the DOT noted.

Refunds are now to be issued within seven business days, the release stated. Full refunds must also be provided in cash or the original form of payment the individual used.

The full amount of the ticket price must be refunded. “The refunds must include all government-imposed taxes and fees and airline-imposed fees, regardless of whether the taxes or fees are refundable to airlines,” the release noted.

“Passengers deserve to get their money back when an airline owes them — without headaches or haggling,” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in the press release. “Our new rule sets a new standard to require airlines to promptly provide cash refunds to their passengers.”

Airlines have six months to comply with the new rules, the DOT stated.