Holiday travelers: know your rights & when you’re owed a refund

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has advice for travelers
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 2:23 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As more than 7 million Americans are expected to take to the skies this holiday season, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation is reminding passengers to know their rights and when they may be entitled to a refund, in case of travel snafus.

The department has launched a customer service dashboard which outlines airline policies.

Check out the airline customer service dashboard

Click this link to learn how to file a complaint

Learn when you’re entitled to a refund

“We got a customer service dashboard laying out airline by airline, what to expect and how the different airlines will treat you if you experience a cancelation or a delay,” Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Washington News Bureau reporter Jamie Bittner.

Airlines do not guarantee their schedules. However, airlines do have customer service plans which they must adhere to. Those commitments can include promises to customers in the event of what’s called a ‘controllable’ delay or cancellation. Controllable delays are normally defined by issues such as crew problems, cabin cleaning, fueling, or baggage loading. Weather is not normally considered a controllable delay.

The U.S. Department of Transportation lists these rights for passengers who have cancelled flights:

  • If your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.
  • If the airline offers you a voucher for future travel instead of a refund, you should ask the airline about any restrictions that may apply, such as blackout and expiration dates, advanced booking requirements, and limits on number of seats.

“If you have a cancelation or a major delay, you are owed a refund and our department is enforcing your right to those refunds. Matter of fact, we just issued millions of dollars in fines and secured hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds for passengers across America in cases where airlines were not living up to their end of the bargain,” said Buttigieg.

Airlines are required to inform passengers about a change in the flight status if the flight is scheduled to depart within 7 days. Airlines are also required to give those status updates 30 minutes after the airline becomes aware of the change, the department states on its website.

The U.S. Department of Transportation also suggests asking the airline if it will pay for meals or a hotel room if a flight is extremely delayed. Some airlines offer these amenities, others do not.

The Department of Transportation says Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United account for nearly 96% of the airline traffic in America.

AAA has forecasted that nearly 113 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from December 23-January 2. It reports that’s up 3.6 million people over last year. Nearly 102 million Americans are expected to drive. They expect air travel to be up by 14% over last year.