Flight canceled? Major delay? Rule change could net refund from airline

The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed a new rule this week requiring airlines to offer customers refunds if their flight is canceled or significantly changed.

The change would require airlines to refund travelers if their flight's arrival or departure time changed by three hours or more for domestic flights, or six or more hours for international flights.

Airlines would also have to refund travelers if their flight's departure or arrival airport changes, the number of connections increases, or their travel experience significantly downgrades after switching to a different plane.

The rule would even apply to travelers who purchased nonrefundable tickets.

The DOT has required airlines to refund passengers for canceled or significantly changed flights in the past, but it never properly defined these terms, and this rule aims to rectify that.

The rule also addresses pandemic-related issues such as government-imposed travel bans or closed borders, requiring airlines to give out nonexpiring vouchers or flight credits to passengers afflicted by such issues.

The proposal comes after a tumultuous summer for airlines, struggling to keep up with high travel demand.

Many travelers experienced delays and canceled flights due to airlines failing to hire enough pilots after many retired during the pandemic.

The DOT hopes the rule will offer travelers more protection when seeking a refund from airlines.

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

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