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The DOT wants to make it easier to get a refund for delayed flights

Aug. 03, 2022
3 min read
The DOT wants to make it easier to get a refund for delayed flights
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After a summer of delays, cancellations, and all-around travel misery, the federal Department of Transportation is proposing a new set of rules that would make it easier for air travelers to get refunds.

Travelers are already entitled to refunds for flights canceled by the airline, as well as for flights that are "significantly" delayed or changed after booking.

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Until now, however, the DOT has never defined what constitutes a "significant" delay or change, leaving it to airlines to voluntarily self-regulate — or in some cases, continue rolling delays of a flight rather than canceling it.

Under the new rules, a "significant delay" would be defined as one that affects the departure or arrival time of a domestic flight by three hours or more, or an international flight by at least six hours.

A "significant change" would include one that changes the departure or arrival airport or adds more connections to an itinerary than what was originally booked. Interestingly, it would also include changes to the aircraft type "if it causes a significant downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities available onboard the flight."

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The proposed rules come after a surge in consumer complaints since the pandemic began, which intensified this spring as airlines struggled with staffing challenges and weather issues despite selling aggressive schedules. Of 4,344 complaints about airlines received by the DOT in May, 1,326 (30.5%) were about refunds, the agency said.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has been increasingly vocal about these issues throughout the spring and early summer, criticizing airlines for poor performance and suggesting it would prompt future action by the DOT. Airlines, meanwhile, have alternated between apologizing to customers and pointing to issues with the national air traffic control system (air traffic control falls under the Federal Aviation Administration, a branch of the federal DOT).

"When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably," Buttigieg said in a statement. "This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines."

The proposed rules would also prohibit expiration dates on flight credits issued under certain pandemic conditions, such as closed borders or health concerns. Most airline flight credits expire within a year of purchase, although Southwest recently removed all expiration dates from its flight credits.

Additionally, airlines that receive federal aid linked to a pandemic would be required to issue cash refunds instead of vouchers, the DOT said. While no airlines publicly disclosed the details surrounding their issued flight credits during the pandemic, a TPG analysis in March, 2021 found that the major airlines had issued approximately 20 million vouchers in 2020, worth around a combined $10.4 billion.

The new rules proposal is now open to public commentary for 90 days.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

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  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

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  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
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  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees