It’s been a messy season for airline travel, with thousands of flights getting canceled or delayed this year. In response to all the chaos, a new proposed bill could soon force airlines to give customers a full refund for their canceled or delayed flights.
The bill, under the name Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations, aims to codify a rule that offers customers a full cash refund for flights that have been canceled or significantly delayed with less than 48 hours notice, according to a press release published by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, on Monday. “While federal law requires airlines to provide cash refunds when they cancel a flight, most airlines only offer to rebook passengers or provide a voucher as the default option instead, forcing customers to jump through hoops to claim their rightful refund,” the release reads. Instead, the bill would give customers an enforceable right to a full cash refund for flights canceled by the airline.
The lawmakers behind the bill acted in response to “nightmarish air travel issues” that have haunted airports across the country these past few months. U.S. airlines have canceled more than 100,000 flights this year, according to data by flight tracking site FlightAware. The site also shows a total of 784 delayed flights on Wednesday alone. All that chaos is a result of more people booking flights this year compared with the lull witnessed due to covid-19 travel restrictions since 2020, combined with airlines being short-staffed, as well as air traffic control facilities.
The bill also proposes that customers can claim refunds for flights that were canceled from March 1, 2020 if they have not yet used the compensation offered by the airline. “For more than two years now, the US airline industry has been sitting on more than $10 billion in unpaid flight refunds to consumers who were unable to fly during Covid-19,” William McGee, senior fellow for Aviation at the American Economic Liberties Project, said in the press release.