US airlines have received incredibly generous bailouts over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic that have been the envy of airlines across the globe.
Incredibly, tens of billions have been handed over without any conditions or givebacks to consumers.
Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal now appear to regret that and have written a letter to all US airlines asking that they provide cash refunds for flights that passengers cancelled since the pandemic began, even if the airline operated the flight. At a minimum, they’re asking for airlines to remove expiration dates from the $10 billion of flight credits and travel vouchers that they have provided. They’re also asking airlines to reinstate credits that have already expired during the pandemic:
FIRST ON CNN: Lawmakers are telling airlines REFUND $10 BILLION to passengers who have credits from trips canceled by the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/5Udsp1x5DE
— Pete Muntean (@petemuntean) May 10, 2021
I’m not sure why they didn’t think to make this a condition of the bailout. It’s a lot harder to negotiate for something when nothing is being offered in return. But the senators could introduce legislation if the airlines refuse, and the airlines would surely prefer to avoid additional regulation of their refund policies. It’s better for airlines to temporarily lift travel voucher expiration dates than it is to have the US Congress regulate that travel vouchers can never expire.
If one airline removes expiration dates or starts offering cash refunds, we’ll likely see the rest follow.
Do you think that will happen and if so, which airline will be first?