Looming expiration dates and complex airline policies may be encouraging travelers to fly before they feel safe boarding a plane
Washington (May 10, 2021) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today sent a letter to each of the major domestic airlines, urging every company to make all pandemic-related flight credits valid indefinitely by default. The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for air travelers whose plans have been disrupted by health concerns, government-mandated bans on travel, and closed borders. Although many consumers have had to cancel flights due to no fault of their own, many airlines have denied them the cash refunds they deserve, and are instead issuing temporary flight credits that are now beginning to expire despite the ongoing health emergency.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal previously led their colleagues in demanding airlines offer cash refunds instead of temporary flight credits, as well as filing legislation that would require the return of travelers’ money. Today’s letter follows these prior efforts after new reports have revealed that travelers are struggling to navigate each airline’s complex policies, which may cause countless consumers to be unable to redeem their flight credits or redeem them at a loss.
“We must first reiterate our belief that your airline should offer a cash refund for all tickets on flights canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, whether canceled by the airline or traveler,” write the senators. “Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing, and prescriptions during this emergency. It is unconscionable that airlines are largely refusing to return customers’ money even as the industry sits on more than $10 billion in unused travel credits. However, even as we continue to push for these cash refunds, it is imperative that, at a minimum, your company does not subject pandemic-related flight credits to an expiration date.”
Letters were sent to the following companies: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.
Copies of the letter to each airline can be found HERE. 
The lawmakers ask the airlines to respond to questions that include:
  • Will your airline commit to providing a cash refund for all tickets that are canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of whether the airline or traveler cancels the flight?
  • What types of flight credits does your airline offer and what are the rules and restrictions governing each type of credit?
  • For each type of credit, what is the total value your airline has issued during the coronavirus pandemic?
  • Will your airline commit to making all flight credits—including those that have already been issued and those that have expired during the pandemic—valid indefinitely by default?
  • Will your airline commit to making all frequent flier miles that were unable to be redeemed during the pandemic valid indefinitely by default?
  • Will your airline commit to making sure your flight credit policy is easy to understand and to making sure flight credits are easy to redeem?  
  • Will your airline’s customers always be able to utilize the full value of their pandemic-related flight credits, no matter their replacement travel plans or other circumstances?