(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) joined Reps. Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) today in introducing the Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act. The bill would require major airlines and third-party ticket sellers to offer full cash refunds for all cancelled tickets during the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of whether the airline cancelled an entire flight or if the passenger cancelled his or her individual ticket.
A companion measure was introduced in the Senate by Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), and Kamala Harris (D-California) on May 13.
The Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act would:
- Require a covered carrier or ticket agent to promptly offer a full cash refund for cancelled tickets on a covered flight, regardless of whether the airline canceled the overall flight or the passenger canceled his or her individual ticket
- Permit a covered carrier or ticket agent to offer travel vouchers as an alternative to cash refunds, as long as that offer includes a clear and conspicuous notice to flyers of their right to a cash refund no matter who canceled the ticket
- Any travel vouchers issued must also remain valid and redeemable indefinitely.
- Establish that this new right to a cash refund is retroactive for any flight canceled on or after March 1, 2020
- Passengers who previously received a travel voucher, but have not used it, can now ask for a cash refund instead of the voucher.
- Allow covered carriers and ticket agents to pay for cash refunds with any funds made available in coronavirus emergency relief legislation, except for the CARES Act grants designated for supporting worker payroll expenses and employee benefits
- Define a “covered carrier” as:
- Any domestic airline that had an operating revenue above $1.5 billion in 2018 (this includes Delta, American, United, Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Spirit, Hawaiian, Frontier, and Allegiant); and
- Any foreign airline that operates a flight to and from the United States
- Define a “covered flight” as any flight arriving at or departing from an airport in the United States during the “COVID-19 emergency period,” which is the period from March 1, 2020 until 180 days after both the public health emergency declaration and presidential emergency declaration with respect to COVID-19 expire
- The 180-day extension will give consumers flexibility and peace of mind until they truly feel safe taking to the skies again.
Additional original cosponsors of the House bill are Reps. Andre’ Carson (IN-07), Bobby Rush (IL01), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Eliot L. Engel (NY-16), Gilbert R. Cisneros (CA-39), Hank C. Johnson Jr. (GA-04), Lou Correa (CA-46), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Joe Courtney (CT-02), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Peter Welch (VT-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), and Tim Ryan (OH-13).
The legislation has been endorsed by the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, Consumer Reports, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).