US DoT To Airlines And Travel Agents: Stop The Shenanigans Or Else!

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The DoT has issued new guidance clarification regarding flights cancelled due to COVID-19.

This comes after they reaffirmed that airlines must provide refunds for cancelled or significantly changed flights.

The DoT says they normally get 1,500 complaints/month, but in March and April they received more than 25,000 complaints.

“The Department has received an unprecedented volume of complaints from passengers and is examining this issue closely to ensure that airlines’ policies and practices conform to DOT’s refund rules,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. “The Department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time.”

Here are some highlights that apply to all flights that are to, from, or within the USA:

  • Rules can’t be changed after tickets were purchased.
    • Airlines like JetBlue and United have been guilty of changing the rules after tickets were purchased. Previously if a flight was cancelled you were able to get a refund. If a flight schedule changed by 2 hours you could also get a refund. Now airlines like United are offering alternate flights with schedule changes up to 6 hours and refusing refunds based on novel definitions of the word “cancelled.” United has even changed the flight time of their Newark-Tel Aviv flight to be in middle of their previous flight times so that they could avoid giving refunds by claiming flights were not changed by more than 6 hours. The DoT says this is an unfair and deceptive practice. Airlines must honor the terms under which the tickets were sold or else they will face enforcement actions against them.
  • Refunds must be issued within 7 days.
    • Airlines like El Al and Lufthansa Group have been delaying refunds indefinitely. This is in violation of DoT policy. Other airlines like United have been delaying refunds past 7 days, also in violation of DoT policy. Airlines that fail to provide refunds within 7 days will face enforcement actions against them.
  • Airlines can’t mislead customers about their refund rights.
    • Airlines are allowed to offer vouchers instead of refunds, but they must clearly tell the passenger that they can request a cash refund for cancelled flights. The option to get a refund must be clearly offered and can’t be hidden by the airline. Airlines misleading customers about the status of a flight or about their refund rights will face enforcement actions against them. Airlines must also clearly state when vouchers will expire.
  • Travel agents must provide refunds for cancelled flights.
    • Some travel agents are claiming that they do not have to provide a refund for cancelled flights or significantly changed flights. The DoT says this is not the case and refunds must be provided. However the DoT will allow travel agents more time to process a refund, though it still must be prompt.

I’d expect airlines like JetBlue and United to come into compliance shortly, so give them a call later today or tomorrow to request a refund if you have been denied previously.

If an airline still won’t issue a refund, be sure to complain to the DoT here.

You should also dispute the charge on your credit card, though note that if you booked via a travel agent that may or may not hurt them.

Kudos to the DoT for putting misbehaving airlines in their place!

Have you been able to get a refund for your cancelled flights? If you call an airline, be sure to tell the agent or manager about today’s DoT guidance!

HT: chff

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67 Comments On "US DoT To Airlines And Travel Agents: Stop The Shenanigans Or Else!"

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Mosaic

Too bad the DOT can’t do anything for Mosaics

David

Dan, I used an expiring jet blue credit, and they cancelled flight. Now they are telling me that the credit refund won’t be valid because it’s technically expired. What do I do as it makes no sense

sm

How long would you wait on a refund of miles + taxes/fees from a LH award ticket (booked last summer) before filing a DOT complaint/CC dispute, and which route would you take?

Anon

Would you suggest filing a DOT complaint if BA only offered me, and gave me, a voucher for my canceled flight booked with Avios?

I’d rather have the Avios in my account than some voucher that expires in 2 years or whatever.

Doug

I’m having the same issue. They issued me a voucher without even listing how much it is worth and I wanted the Avios like every time before. They will not respond to messages and I have not been able to get through to anyone via the phone.

Anon

Try Twitter dm to them if you’re able

Anon

Thanks for the idea. I sent them a Twatter message.

Anon

BA rep on Twatter said nope. Sent in the DOT complaint.

EB

Anyone got a refund from Lot?

Cee

No. Waiting for it already for 60 days now and they keep on telling me that it’s in Q to be processed but no timeframe whatsoever.

Avi

If I received a JetBlue credit because I cancelled without waiting for JetBlue to cancel of their own accord, is there any way to convert this to refund to my credit card?

Glushtygiz

Is it true that if u had a points ticket that got canceled u can now choose any flight even if there’s no award availability on that new flight ? And can this be done once an automatic refund has been processed on the points

Judah

What if i booked a flight for the summer for a week with virgin Atlantic, and at that time there is news that may be a mandatory 2 week quarantine.

now what if they fly again but i need to be isolated two weeks in London and come back a week later than my original ticket.

will i get my credit back if i need to cancel because of that?

Sam

Hi dan if United canceled a direct flight and they are offering to rebook a stopover With a partner airline ( flight leaves and arrives within 2 hours of original trip).can they refuse me a refund ?

E

Wondering if the DOT guidance applies to booking fees? I received a refund for tickets but not the booking fees.

Doug

Has anyone had any luck getting British Airways to credit back your Avios for a flight rather than the voucher they provided? I have no idea what the voucher is worth but I don’t want it regardless…I only use Avios for flights through BA and can’t even find an available flight on their site if I’m not “booking with Avios.”

I’ve sent them three messages and they’ve not responded to a single one over the past couple of months. Also tried to call but have yet to get through to a person in a reasonable time frame.

JMM

I’ve been able to get avios back on multiple flights that got canceled and changed. Only way to do this is calling .

Doug

Okay, thanks everyone. Guess I need to spend some more time on the phone!

Pat

Anyone having huge delays in Ethiad Guest award tickets? They said up to 45 business days for my refund..

R

My travel agent told me he booked the ticket on elal with points ( I wasn’t told that at the time of booking) and can’t guarantee me a refund. Just a credit for the same level seats I got. I don’t want to hurt another yids parnassa but wondering if this is legit or Elal is refunding the points to travel agents ..

Rb

Are non-US airlines included in this policy? Ie Avianca

DmO

No, they are not excluded as long as the flight starts or ends in the US.

Ehud

El Al defying DoT guidelines!! Can’t be!! Must be a mistake. El Al can do nothing wrong.

El Al is a joke airline

Bruce

What’s the deal with Air Canada? They openly defy the DOT and make no qualms about saying that it’s a force majeure, and they are absolutely not going to refund involuntarily canceled flights? Why isn’t this garnering any attention?

Ten Bucks a Week

Any idea how to get lap infant refunds? I have a JAL which a I already got AA miles refund on the adults. I have two other similar situations.

Mother of sem girl

Dan – Last may, I bought a round trip open ticket for el al flight ($1700) to Israel for my daughter who is in seminary this year. I paid with a chase sapphire preferred credit card. The ticket was through an agent and we were told that we have to book the return portion with el al ourselves. She’s still there and seminary ends mid June.

1) does it look like el al will be flying by then?
2) if el al isn’t flying and I have to get her home with United, will I be able to get a refund for the return portion? What amount is fair to accept?
3) should I insist the travel agent help me?

Mikes@Micro.com

Your daughter stayed for pesach? Ashrecha!

E

We’re in a similar situation and the travel agent 100% washed their hands of this. Mamash disgraceful to take money for a service and then disappear.

Issac

Anyway to do chargeback if booked thru chase ultimate rewards using points

Carl Sherer

Will DoT force El Al to refund immediately for tickets bought in the US? Or does the Knesset retroactive extension override that? (As a lawyer I am going to guess that the Knesset cannot change the rules for tickets purchased in the US).

Al

I had a flight from US to Cape Town booked on Austrian Airlines cancelled last month. Booked with points with AMEX Travel. They keep telling me that they have tried to email (not call) airline to request refund. What options do I have?

Ezra cohen

Hi Dan My wife and I originally booked a virgin Atlantic flight to Israel via London with Priceline, while in Israel (in March) our return flight was canceled by virgin to heathrow and of course we missed our London to jfk flight ,what Are our options at this point for a refund
Virgin only wants to give credit for a
Future flight within the year of purchase??

SH

We had booked SwissAir flights for Pesach. The airline canceled the flights. When I called for a refund I was told I am in a que and the refund can take 2-3 months to be processed. Should I dispute the charge with my cc? I also booked ELAL flights for my kids. I disputed the charge with my cc before you posted about the online form which I completed. Should I withdraw the cc dispute with ELAL?

Punit

Anything for the hotel? I booked non refundable hotel in Greece via Expedia. Expedia is offering 1 year voucher for same hotel. I’m ok with Expedia credit but not the hotel voucher. Can i file complaint or contact chase reserve to dispute transaction?

Kathy

I booked a trip through Chase Ultimate Rewards for an April trip. I called them to cancel (before the flight was cancelled but Aruba was not allowing people in). I was issued a credit with American Airlines for me and hubby that is supposed to be used by the end of the year. I found an inexpensive flight for September so I used part of the voucher. I was told that I have a balance of around $300 on each voucher. Now that the airlines must issue credits, is there any way for me to get atleast part of my Chase points back. I really don’t want the voucher with the airline but the prices have gone up for my September trip. Thanks for any insight you may have.

p m

How would a dispute work on a return flight?

united

I had a return flight from TLV that I cancelled, and was supposed to pay $300 to change the date plus difference in fair. Once United cancelled flights to TLV, I called and they refunded the price of the return ticket (was 1/3 of total). Took 3 weeks to get refund.
Maybe it helps that I have status (they’re very nice to deal with, and always get to speak to an American…)

Shim

BE”H SHALOM.
Thx for the post b blessed
I bought tickets through us bank travel with points.
I was forbidden to fly by my doctor. from 5 days before my flight till today I haven’t been able to get through to the rewards department to cancel even though I called tens of times and even waited many times up to four hours what should I do to get my refund. Thx

Jeremiah

Justfly wants to charge me $35 to process refund and LOT polish won’t touch the ticket

Dave

FYI; it is always worth a try requesting whatever it is you want. My wife had a domestic Delta flight that was delayed by a mere 45 minutes as they consolidated flights. It was April 5th and we were under a stay at home order. By law they did not have to issue any more than a credit, which they did. I sent an e-mail requesting a refund. I just got a full refund today. So TRY reaching out, ya never know.

fedup

we requested a refund the airline is dragging their feet. we filed a complaint with DoT but heard nothing so we went to our CC and they’re disputing the charges.

Shana

I bought 5 round trip tickets to Brazil through the travel agency Kiss&Fly in February 2020. The flights, which were on American Airlines, were canceled due to COVID-19. The tickets cost nearly $4000 but Kiss&Fly promised a refund of only ~ $3400 claiming the cost of airline commission. I disputed the charge with my credit card company but lost the dispute. I also contacted the DOT. I still haven’t received any refund from Kiss&Fly. Do you recommend that I accept the $600 loss? What else can I do?

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