In the wake of airlines’ refusal to voluntarily do right by the flying public, lawmakers call on DOT to use its consumer protection authority to preserve travelers’ hard-earned dollars

Washington (June 30, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Representative Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04) today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) urging the agency to protect air travelers from an unfair business practice that has pervaded aviation during the coronavirus pandemic – the denial of cash refunds for canceled flights and the issuance of flight credits that will soon expire. This letter follows another sent to all of the major domestic airlines in May of this year, requesting that airlines voluntarily work with lawmakers to make pandemic-related travel credits valid indefinitely by default. Regrettably, the failure of most airlines to provide refunds or promise that these credits will never expire has made it clear that strong action by the DOT is necessary.

During the ongoing emergency, many Americans have proactively canceled their flights at the urging of health officials – only to find themselves ineligible for refunds that would have been available had they waited for airlines to cancel their flights for them. In the place of refunds, airlines provided passengers with temporary travel credits that have already expired or will expire before many Americans feel safe traveling again. Additionally, many airlines have imposed conditions on travel credits that consumers have struggled to navigate, leaving many Americans unable to redeem their travel credits or only able to redeem them at a loss, even as the industry sits on more than $10 billion in unused travel credits.

“The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for air travelers, and consumers deserve cash refunds for tickets canceled during the pandemic,” write the lawmakers in their letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “At a minimum, it is imperative that all flight credits issued during the pandemic are made valid indefinitely by default and frequent flier miles do not expire as a result of travelers having chosen not to fly during the pandemic. We urge you to act swiftly to address these concerns, and we stand ready to work with you to protect air travelers. There should be no expiration date for consumer protection.”

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

During the prior Congress, Senators Markey and Blumenthal led their colleagues in demanding airlines offer cash refunds instead of temporary flight credits. Senators Markey and Blumenthal and Representative Cohen also filed legislation that would require the return of travelers’ money. Today’s efforts build on these lawmakers’ prior work and continue their fight to preserve consumers’ hard-earned dollars.