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You might be able to get a refund for that flight you canceled after all

May 13, 2020
4 min read
You might be able to get a refund for that flight you canceled after all
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It's no secret that travelers have been canceling their trips in droves because of the coronavirus outbreak. For airline passengers, proactively canceling flights likely meant a voucher for future travel — but no refund.

While flyers are entitled to refunds if the airline canceled their flights, no such protections apply to cancellations made by the passenger. Now, however, a group of Democratic senators wants to change that.

A bill introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) Wednesday would require airlines to provide cash refunds to all passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic — even those whose flights are still operating as scheduled — if the passenger has simply chosen not to travel.

"Deciding not to fly is the right choice for public health. Yet, when travelers proactively cancel their tickets, the airline industry only provides vouchers, not cash," the senators said in a press release announcing the legislation.

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The bill comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Transportation reminding airlines that they are required to provide refunds to customers when the carrier cancels a flight. However, as airlines face a historic drop in demand, they have been hesitant to provide cash refunds to passengers who voluntarily choose not to travel. Airlines have said providing refunds to all passengers could quickly lead to bankruptcy.

But Markey — whose legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — said airlines have a "moral obligation" to provide refunds to all passengers in these strange times.

More: Airlines were hesitant to give refunds. Now they’re getting sued.

“Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing, and prescriptions, not temporary credits toward future travel,” Markey said in a statement. “In light of this pressing need, and an unprecedented multi-billion dollar bailout, it’s absolutely unconscionable that the airlines won’t give consumers their money back."

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If passed into law, the bill would require airlines and travel agents to provide cash refunds to passengers who choose not to travel during the pandemic. It would also compel those companies to notify travelers that they are entitled to a refund, even when vouchers are being offered. Many of the senators who co-signed the legislation had previously written to the major U.S. airline CEOs to demand they provide refunds to passengers voluntarily.

To cover the costs, Markey said airlines would be able to use government bailout money to pay for the refunds, so long as the funds weren't specifically intended to support airline employee payroll. The legislation would retroactively apply to all tickets for travel on flights on or after March 1, meaning that even passengers who have already received a voucher would be allowed to convert that to a cash refund.

Related: 2 U.S. airlines are defying refund rules for canceled flights — here’s how to get yours anyway.

The regulations would remain in effect for 180 days after the national emergency declarations related to the pandemic were rescinded.

“We believe we have a tidal wave of outrage that is heading toward the airline industry," Markey said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. He said his legislation, which he is working to have included in the next round of coronavirus aid, could serve as a breakwater by allowing would-be travelers to recoup their money.

What you should know about flight cancellations and refunds

TPG has extensive coverage about receiving flight cancellations during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you're simply looking to understand your rights or seeking out more advanced advice, check out our archive of stories on the subject for more information.

Featured image by United jets parked at the airline's Chicago O'Hare hub. (Photo courtesy of United Airlines)

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Annual Fee

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740-850
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023