Senators Want Airlines to Give Flyers Refunds Over Flight Credits

Senators Want Airlines to Give Flyers Refunds Over Flight Credits
Joe Cortez

With many flight vouchers set to expire, two Democrat senators are asking airlines to give flyers cash refunds now that the pandemic is coming to an end. Senators Edward J. Markey and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to each of the major air carriers, asking to give travelers their money back instead of allowing the vouchers to expire.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, cancelled flights were met with not refunds, but flight vouchers valid towards a future trip. With many set to expire, two senators are asking the airlines to either extend them indefinitely, or give passengers their money back. In a press release, Democrat senators Ed Markey from Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut announced they are asking the airlines to extend additional consumer protections for flyers.

Senators Task Airlines With Seven Questions on Consumer Protections

The letters were sent to the ten major U.S. carriers, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines. The senators asked the airlines seven questions about how they will handle the deluge of expiring flight credits, including if they will convert them to cash refunds, or if they will make them valid forever.

“Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing, and prescriptions during this emergency,” the two senators wrote in their letter. “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.”

Flight credits weren’t the only issue the senators wanted the airlines to address. The two are also asking airlines to make all frequent flyer miles unusable during the COVID-19 pandemic “valid indefinitely by default.” While Delta SkyMiles have no expiration date, most frequent flyer programs expire miles if they are not used within two years.

This isn’t the first time the lawmakers have attempted to compel airlines to give flyers their money back over pandemic-cancelled flights. In May 2020, Blumenthal and Markey signed onto a proposed bill which would require airlines to give flyers their money back for flights cancelled due to the ongoing public health emergency.

Airlines Continue to Resist Giving Flyers Refunds

Even though the pandemic has been going on for over a year, airlines continue to go out of their way to prevent flyers from getting a cash refund. In addition to extending no cancellation fee policies for international flights, the Colorado attorney general has asked for the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate Frontier for their refund policies.

View Comments (8)


  1. stablemate77

    May 10, 2021 at 10:20 pm

    the airline thinks you will forget had to cancel second time air france got refund on card in 2 days got westjet credits hawaiian delta longers it goes more in pocket of now over priced tickets forget travel give me cash back

  2. craig44485

    May 11, 2021 at 6:44 am

    Funny how they wanted tax payer cash when they needed bailed out and not “credits”, but now they want to give credits and not cash back, and now enforce the expiration date on these credits. May be the credits should be extended until all the bail out funds they got are repaid? They reported record profits for years, and weeks into the start of the pandemic they we screaming for help or they would go under. God forbid the government make them set aside some of those profits for a “rainy day fund” like the rest of us lowly tax payers do. They got billions and we got thousands, go figure.

  3. PHL

    May 11, 2021 at 11:08 am

    It’s highly likely the credits/vouchers will be extended another year or two, but not indefinitely.

    Paying out ~$10B in refunds is a nonstarter, despite that it should have been offered a year ago. Technically, a lot of people probably could have gotten a full refund since many flights were outright canceled or given a big schedule change that would justify a refund request. But the many casual/leisure travelers don’t understand that they could do that, and the airlines definitely didn’t advertise that.

    Just about every other industry that required paid reservations for something during the pandemic offered refunds *OR* rescheduling to a later time.

  4. strickerj

    May 11, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    I thought the U.S. airlines already refunded flights they canceled? Even Air Canada finally relented, and they seemed to be the last holdout of the major western airlines.

  5. Centurion

    May 11, 2021 at 5:32 pm


  6. NW.BTR.Than.The.Rest

    May 18, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    US airlines are not necessarily refunding tickets for flights they themselves did not cancel. If the traveler cancelled their itinerary, only credits of various names and with various rules were issued. This was true even if the traveler could not have possibly traveled because his destination was closed to travelers.

    Initially Air Canada issued vouchers for any voluntary cancellation, but at least they were good until used. I had to cancel an AC flight and received such vouchers. A week or two ago, I received an email from AC stating that all vouchers could be refunded to the original form of payment regardless of the reason for the issuance of the voucher. I did have to enter some info on a website they created for this purpose and I have already received the refund to my cc. There is a deadline in June, IIRC, for requesting the refund.

    All that said, I’d personally be satisfied if the Big 3 (with all of whom I have a significant amount of credit) would just say all instruments issued as a credit are good until used.

  7. strickerj

    May 22, 2021 at 11:51 am

    Oh, I see this is for flights canceled by the passenger as well… I missed that distinction.

    FWIW, I book nonrefundable fares because I’ll be traveling at some point anyway, and I don’t mind eating the change fee and getting the rest as a credit if I need to cancel; the risk of that happening is worth the savings over a refundable ticket. I didn’t expect the airlines to retroactively loosen their policies on that, though it was appreciated.

    What irked me is Air Canada retroactively changing its policy to be more restrictive – only offering a credit for flights canceled by them for reasons “beyond their control” (which they claim is every flight they cancel). This is in violation of their own international tariff, which stipulates that the tariff at the time of purchase applies. I ended up getting my refund through a chargeback.

  8. bwallet

    May 25, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Every flight that I had that the airline canceled was refunded. United balked at first, but I no nonsense demanding message, and my money was refunded in a day. Southwest was smooth as silk. Any flight that I canceled has had that credit long since used. You could fly. People just chose not to fly. I had to fly.

    People may ‘need money’, but airlines are not charities. Why are they not asking Ford or GM to give people money? Certainly, their are people who have car leases with more miles than they used because people drove less. If you enter into a contract (such as a non-refundable plane ticket), you should expect the terms of that contract to bind both parties. The airlines, in most cases, did more than was specified in the contract.

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