Two New Jersey congressman introduced a bill that would mandate full refunds for airline tickets cancelled because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) and Albio Sires (D-West New York), would require domestic air carriers and third-party travel services seeking funds made available under the $2 trillion bailout Congress passed last month provide refunds regardless of whether or not the traveler initiated a cancellation.
“Many consumers have been left to fend for themselves as they try to get answers and their money back from air carriers and third-party travel services for trips they’ll never get to take,” Smith said. “These cancelations are born out of circumstances beyond a traveler’s control. Yet they have been flatly denied refunds or in some cases issued a credit to be used only within a required timeframe. That’s unacceptable”
The Federal Department of Transportation issued a notice that told airlines to advise passengers that they were entitled to a refund instead of credits or vouchers for cancelled flights, though some carriers have refused.
It’s possible airlines, which received $50 billion in direct aid as part of the bailout bill, will move to head off the bill.
When some post offices suspended service during the 2001 anthrax attacks, banks and other businesses voluntarily stopped charging interest rates on checks and bills that were never delivered to stave off a similar consumer protection bill.
“In this time of financial uncertainty for so many Americans, airlines should not be forcing people to jump through hoops to get refunds for canceled trips,” Sires said. “I believe that this is a commonsense fix that will allow people to stay home without having to worry if they will get their money back.”