Washington (February 28, 2023) – As airlines continue to fail consumers, with refund complaints still 11,000 percent above pre-pandemic levels, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), along with Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Representative Steve Cohen today reintroduced their Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations Act, legislation to provide consumers an enforceable right to a full cash refund when airlines cancel their flight. This legislation codifies the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) authority to require major airlines to give passengers a cash refund if the airline cancels or significantly delays their flight, and creates a new right for consumers to receive a cash refund if the passenger cancels their flight up to 48 hours ahead of the flight’s scheduled departure.
“Rampant flight cancellations and delays, deteriorating customer service and sky-high prices cannot be the new normal for air travel,” said Representative Raskin. “Our legislation will help restore some civility and decency to flights by ensuring cash refunds for flight cancellations or delays. After benefiting from a major taxpayer bailout during the COVID-19 pandemic, the airlines must hold up their end of the bargain by addressing the underlying causes of operational challenges and delays and by delivering promised services to passengers. I’m grateful to my colleagues, Senators Markey, Blumenthal and Representative Cohen for their partnership in this endeavor to protect the rights of passengers and improve airline customer service.”
“Air travel today is stressful, uncomfortable, and expensive, and the experience only gets worse when an airline cancels or significantly delays a flight,” said Senator Markey. “My Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations Act ensures that airlines will provide legally-required cash refunds to passengers for cancelled and significantly delayed flights, and it eases the stress of booking air travel by allowing passengers to receive a refund if they cancel their ticket at least 48 hours before the flight. As flight delays, cancellations, and consumer complaints go sky-high, I’m committed to putting new guardrails on this out-of-control industry and putting passengers back in control of the flying experience.”
“Cash refunds for cancelled or significantly delayed flights are common sense. When passengers’ flights are cancelled or they give the airline plenty of notice about a change in their plans, they deserve their money back in full – not a voucher or credit,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Our legislation is an important step in restoring fairness and accountability to Americans’ air travel experiences. It’s time to address the airline industry’s unacceptable practices and put passengers before profits.”
“It is long overdue that airlines be legally required to give full cash refunds to passengers whose flights are cancelled or who cancel their flights with reasonable notice,” said Representative Cohen. “The flying public should not be punished for extenuating circumstances nor should they have to fight tooth and nail for a refund due to a carrier’s delays or cancellations, especially after airlines received a multi-billion-dollar bailout from American taxpayers.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Specifically, the Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations Act would:
- Require a covered airline or ticket agent to offer a full cash refund within 30 days if the airline cancels or significantly delays a flight, or if a passenger cancels their ticket up until 48 hours of the scheduled departure time.
- Require a covered carrier or ticket agent to disclose to the passenger their right to a cash refund if (1) the passenger cancels their ticket up until 48 hours of the scheduled departure time and (2) the airline cancels or significantly delays their flight.
- Authorize the Secretary of Transportation to impose a $1,000 civil penalty on an airline for failing to provide a full cash refund to a passenger within 30 days.
Endorsers of the Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations Act include the American Economic Liberties Project, the National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, and the Business Travel Coalition.
“COVID-19 didn't create the airline industry’s systemic refund problems, it only highlighted them,” said William J. McGee, Senior Fellow for Aviation at the American Economic Liberties Project. “The industry has long behaved badly by withholding refunds and making air travelers jump through hoops to claim what is rightfully theirs. What’s more, despite clear DOT language that requires cash reimbursements for canceled flights, carriers continue to offer credits and vouchers instead. We applaud Senators Markey and Blumenthal and Representatives Cohen and Raskin for taking action to end these unfair and deceptive practices, once and for all.”
“Passengers should not be the ones left holding the bag when an airline cancels a flight,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy at the National Consumers League. “Given the significant costs typically associated with airfares, airlines must provide cash refunds for cancelled flights. And when passengers choose to accept a voucher instead of a cash payment, that voucher should never expire. The National Consumers League is pleased to support this common-sense consumer protection bill.”
“Airline cancellations are at an all-time high, and it is made even worse when airlines neglect to provide appropriate and timely refunds,” said Erin E. Witte, Director of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation of America. “This bill presents a straightforward resolution to a growing problem, and CFA is grateful for Senator Markey’s willingness to push back on airlines to make air travel better for consumers.”
“As airline reliability continues to decline, consumers need to know that air carriers will be held accountable for the travel problems that are within their control,” said Ruth Susswein, Director of Consumer Protection at Consumer Action. “Senator Markey’s Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations Act gives consumers the protection they need to be made whole when airlines cancel or seriously delay travel plans.”
Senator Markey is a staunch advocate for airline consumers. He recently reintroduced the FAIR Fees Act, which would prohibit airlines from charging fees disproportionate to the cost of the service, and the Families Fly Together Act, which would prohibit airlines from charging a fee for families to sit together on a flight. After Southwest Airlines cancelled 16,700 flights over the holidays, Senator Markey called for the company to provide a cash hardship payment to customers, in addition to issuing ticket refunds and reimbursing customers for secondary expenses. Senator Markey and 15 of his colleagues also wrote a letter to Southwest Airlines with detailed questions about the meltdown. Last November, Senator Markey led his colleagues in a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, urging the Department to strengthen its proposed rule on airline ticket refunds.