New rules announced to protect airline passengers from hidden fees

Airport Travel passengers
Posted at 8:48 AM, Apr 24, 2024

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The Biden-Harris Administration on Wednesday made a big announcement that is going to save airline passengers a ton of grief and dollars.

There will be new and strict rules in effect for airlines that prevent them from surprising consumers with “junk fees” or hidden airline fees again.

In a Department of Transportation press release, the new rules will mandate automatic cash refunds for canceled or “significantly delayed” flights, “significantly delayed” checked bags, or failed extra services that passengers purchased, such as Wi-Fi.

The DOT said “significant changes” to a flight include, "Departure or arrival times that are more than 3 hours domestically and 6 hours internationally; departures or arrivals from a different airport; increases in the number of connections; instances where passengers are downgraded to a lower class of service; or connections at different airports or flights on different planes that are less accessible or accommodating to a person with a disability."

How much money is expected to be saved with the new policies?

The DOT said it will save consumers over half a billion dollars every year in airline fees.

So, why is the DOT doing this?

Turns out, the DOT received a high number of complaints against airlines and ticket agents for refusing to provide a refund or for delaying processing of refunds during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOT said refund complaints peaked at 87 percent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Now, the new rules will guarantee that refunds will be:

  • Automatic: Airlines must automatically issue refunds without passengers having to explicitly request them or jump through hoops.
  • Prompt: Airlines and ticket agents must issue refunds within seven business days of refunds becoming due for credit card purchases and 20 calendar days for other payment methods.
  • Cash or original form of payment: Airlines and ticket agents must provide refunds in cash or whatever original payment method the individual used to make the purchase, such as credit card or airline miles. Airlines may not substitute vouchers, travel credits, or other forms of compensation unless the passenger affirmatively chooses to accept alternative compensation.
  • Full amount: Airlines and ticket agents must provide full refunds of the ticket purchase price, minus the value of any portion of transportation already used. The refunds must include all government-imposed taxes and fees and airline-imposed fees, regardless of whether the taxes or fees are refundable to airlines.

The new federal rules are expected to take effect in the next 6-12 months -- giving airlines time to adjust accordingly.