It seems that the airlines aren’t too happy with travelers right now – and that’s because the Department of Transportation has stepped in to tell airlines how to handle its customers.
The feeling is mutual. Travelers aren’t too happy with airlines right now, either. It’s hard to be pleased – ticket costs are high, flights are delayed or canceled due to staff shortages, and customer service is nearly impossible to reach.
Yet, traveling is a necessity. People depend on airlines to get them to various cities for business meetings and vacations. And with COVID as a fading memory, more people are eager to book flights and take a vacation.
The Department of Transportation is currently proposing rules that would allow travelers to get refunds if their flights are delayed or canceled. According to a statement made by the department, the rules, “if adopted, would significantly strengthen protections for consumers seeking refunds for airline tickets.”
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With costs of tickets skyrocketing over last year’s prices, many Americans can’t afford to be out hundreds of dollars while they wait for a refund. And in many instances, airlines would rather issue a credit over a refund.
The rules are open for a 90-day comment period. That means that airlines have a chance to be heard – and the comment period closes on November 1.
Samuel Engel, the senior VP of Aviation ICF told Entrepreneur, “I’m sure there will be vigorous comment.” He added, “The airlines don’t like to be told how to manage their customers.”
That may be true but considering how many travelers are upset with the current refund rules, it’s clear that the airlines need to be told what to do. Just hop onto social media. You’ll hear countless stories of people being stranded by an airline, being unable to communicate with customer service, and being offered flight credit instead of being refunded so that they can book with a different airline.
CBS News reported that the previous DOT rule was that airlines had to refund customers if a flight was canceled. Unfortunately, this is a rule that was often ignored or downplayed. It required a customer to know their rights and fight for a refund.
The DOT reported that since 2020, it has received a “flood” of complaints from travelers unable to get refunds after “delays, cancellations, or pandemic-related issues.”
The new proposed rules help to clarify when a refund is available, including if a domestic departure or arrival shifts by three hours or more (six hours or more for international), if the number of connections increases, or if the departure or arrival location changes. Additionally, if the type of plane changes that “causes a significant downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities available onboard the flight,” refunds would be available.
We already know that many airlines received government assistance as a result of COVID. So, there’s no reason for them to be stingy.
The deregulation of the airline industry was probably one of the worst moves for travelers. Airlines made out great – they can treat customers however they want without a care in the world. It’s as if the airlines constantly forget that it is customers who keep them in business each and every year.
Airlines are critical infrastructure. We need them so that we can travel across the country. We don’t deserve the way that we’ve been treated, complete with canceled flights, missed connections, and even being stranded overnight due to canceled or delayed flights, all without any kind of financial reparations.
We’re not asking for a lot. What we’re asking for is such things as hotel vouchers and full refunds on canceled and delayed flights. If the airlines won’t listen to us, perhaps they’ll listen once the Department of Transportation sets up new rules. We can only hope, anyway.