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New DOT Rules Require Refunds for Cancelled Flights, Junk Fees

A new set of rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation will require airlines to provide refunds instead of travel credits in certain scenarios, while clearly disclosing ancillary fees at the point of sale.
Flyers will now be entitled to cash refunds when their flights are cancelled, significantly delayed, or baggage arrives much later than scheduled.


The agency announced a new set of rules for airlines, requiring flyers to receive automatic refunds when services are not provided as scheduled.


Airlines Must Provide Refunds for Flyers Without “Jumping Through Hoops”

Under the new rules, which take effect immediately, airlines are on the hook for more of the problems flyers may face during their travel day. This includes flight cancellations, major flight delays, significant delay of luggage, or when ancillary services – like in-flight wi-fi – do not work.


The rules require airlines to provide the refunds automatically, without action or paperwork from flyers requesting a claim. Charges billed to credit cards must be refunded in seven days, while all other forms of payment must be refunded within 20 days. The refunds must incorporate the full price, including government-imposed taxes and airline fees, minus the travel already used.


In addition to refunds, airlines and travel agencies will now be required to provide all “junk fee” pricing upfront at the point of sale. The “junk fees” now required for disclosure includes:

  • Checked bag fees
  • Carry-on bag fees
  • Reservation change fees
  • Reservation cancellation fees


Moreover, travel sales agents must provide information about the extras flyers are purchasing. For instance: Buying a seat assignment aboard any carrier is not necessary to guarantee a seat aboard a flight. Flyers must also receive fee policies before they make a purchase, including the weight limits and dimensions of luggage, and rules surrounding flight changes or cancellations.


The rule will apply to travel providers, brick-and-mortar travel agencies, and online travel agencies equally. The agency says the rules will provide more transparency for passengers.


“This isn’t just about enforcing when something goes wrong – it’s making it less likely something would go wrong in the first place,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during remarks announcing the changes. “When an airline knows that all, instead of just a few, of the passengers on a cancelled flight are likely to actually get their money back, it gives them a different set of reasons to put in the investment and the realistic scheduling that makes a cancellation less likely to begin with.”


The U.S.-based carriers and their organizations have not taken a formal position on the new rule changes.


Share your thoughts about how the new rules compare to international regulations on the FlyerTalk forums.


Feature image courtesy: U.S. Department of Transportation

IkarosBOS April 29, 2024

The swan is singing before hopefully being forgotten forever (and frankly what is there to remember about his tenure other than his paternal leaves at critical moments?)

bgzcle April 25, 2024

Buttigieg, Could have also addressed baggage damages, my lart two flights had wheels broke of suitcases, you must jump through so many hoops and provide phtos and do it in a limited time that when you read the requirements, you just say "FOFGET IT" letting the airlines off the hook.  How about a photo and a dated destination baggage tag.  Seems proof enough to me.  Any thoughts on this

esandiego April 25, 2024

Overall a great move, but something seems to be missing from consideration and that is the additional cost a flyer who booked and paid for their flight (often times months in advance to take advantage of lower booking fares) who will most likely incur a substantial increase in walkup fares for a comparable seat to get them to their original destination as soon as possible.

Marykatesmom April 25, 2024

I read through the rules and was wondering if weather cancellations and delays are excluded from these new rules.  After a hurricane in 2022 and massive cancellations across the board it still was a paperwork nightmare to get a refund instead of a travel credit.  The travel credit was only good for 6 months after date of purchase and if you purchase well in advance then this further shortens its usefulness.

redtop43 April 25, 2024

I think it's worth pointing out that a certain cohort of the news media (I will try to keep this gentle) likes to claim that Secretary Buttigeig is not qualified for his job - I mean, he is only a Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, Naval intelligence officer, was deployed overseas while in the military, and served as mayor of a mid-sized American city.  I wish I had those qualifications!