It Could Be Easier to Get Refunds for Delayed Flights Soon

The Department of Transportation wants to simplify the process.

When experts predicted that travel during Summer 2022 would be pure chaos, they weren’t wrong. Airlines canceled thousands of flights, and the Heathrow International Airport went so far as to implement a daily capacity limit for the number of travelers that fly out of the airport. And if you didn’t experience flight cancellations, you almost certainly experienced flight delays. The New York Times reported that by July 1, more than 820,000 had been delayed in 2022. That comes out to be about one in five flights that were delayed.

Now, The Points Guy is reporting that the Department of Transportation is proposing rules that will make it easier for passengers to get refunds for delayed flights. Right now, you can get refunds for canceled flights or flights that are significantly delayed. But as experience may have already taught you, "significant" is a word up for interpretation by airlines. That means you could be working with a flight delayed by eight hours and the airline could determine that the delay did not meet the threshold of "significant."

The new rules that the DOT has put forth would define a significant delay as any domestic departure or arrival that is delayed by three hours or more. For international flights, a significant delay would be any flights delayed by six hours or more. The DOT would define "significant changes" to a flight as changes to the arrival or departure airport, or additional connecting flights.

In July 2022, the DOT reported that consumer complaints about airline travel were still 200% higher than before the pandemic. "The Department's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements," the report states. "Many passengers who had initially been denied refunds have received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against non compliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary."

The new DOT rules would also address expiration dates for flight credits issued as a result of pandemic related issues. Currently, Southwest Airlines is the only US carrier that does not have expiration dates on flight credits, and that policy was only instituted in late July.

As for next steps, the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee will be hosting a virtual public meeting on the proposed changes on August 22, and is also encouraging individuals to submit comments on the plan through its website over the next 90 days.

Between these new proposed measures by the DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration’s open forum about the size of airplane seats, it seems a little hopeful that the future of flying will be less chaotic, and maybe even a little bit more comfortable.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.