Insider Travel Report: DOT Proposes New Rule to Get Airlines to Refund Consumers

August 4, 2022 Media

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed a new rule to help consumers seeking refunds for canceled or significantly changed flights. And that move has been praised by consumer advocacy groups like the American Economic Liberties Project. On the other hand those groups say they wish the proposed rule was retroactive so it could address all the refunds owned over the past three years of pandemic.

“The Department of Transportation’s proposed rule makes important and welcome changes to existing law to ensure consumers receive the refunds they are owed,” said William McGee, senior fellow for aviation at the American Economic Liberties Project. “However, while the proposed rule is a crucial change of pace for the airline industry, it is not retroactive. It will do nothing to address $10 billion in refunds still owed to consumers unable to fly due to COVID-19 and this summer’s operational meltdowns, and it will not have a tangible impact until two years or more from now.”

“McGee said that with the airline industry still in crisis, the DOT desperately needs to embrace a more muscular approach to governing. “So far, Secretary Buttigieg (pictured above) has declined to impose so much as a $1 fine against any U.S. airline for unpaid refunds or excessive flight cancellations, which has created a pliable regulatory environment for the airlines to take advantage of,” McGee pointed out.

“Across federal, state and local governments, politicians from both sides of the aisle are calling on the DOT—the only regulator with any substantive authority—to hold the airlines accountable for this summer’s self-imposed travel crisis,” said McGee. “Secretary Buttigieg must heed these calls, and start to govern to secure fair, consistent and economically reasonable access to air travel for all Americans. Congress must also eliminate federal preemption so that the DOT is not the only actor responsible for holding the airlines accountable.”