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US Senators Propose the “Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act of 2020”

US Senators Propose the “Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act of 2020”
Taylor Rains

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, travel has come to a near screeching halt. Because of this, airlines are canceling flights, and customers are proactively canceling their reservations. However, in either case, most carriers are refusing to offer cash refunds to travelers and are instead only issuing vouchers or travel credits. This has led to outrage on social media and over 25,000 complaints to the DOT, which has caught the attention of a few senators who do not agree with the airline’s decisions. So, they are taking matters into their own hands.

Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act of 2020

Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusettes has proposed the “Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act of 2020” that will require airlines to provide cash refunds for any canceled ticket made by the airline or proactively by the customer. The new legislation is also being backed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

Markey explained his reasoning in a statement, “At a time when families are struggling to pay for food, for housing, for prescriptions, it’s absolutely unconscionable that the airlines won’t return this money to consumers, especially after they received a multi-billion bailout from the Congress using American taxpayers’ dollars.”

Although the senator has repeatedly called on airlines to issue cash refunds, most will not budge, so he is pushing for this new legislation to be included in the next government stimulus package. He said, “We cannot continue to bail out big business while only giving scraps to individuals and families in need.” Markey estimates $10 billion of customer’s money is being held as future travel credits and that the act is “profiting on the back of American consumers.”

What Would the Bill Require?

The senator has outlined the terms of the new act:

  • Major airlines and third-party ticket sellers will be required to offer full cash refunds for any flight canceled either by the airline or by the customer
  • Major airlines and third-party ticket sellers will be allowed to offer vouchers or travel credits instead of a cash refund as long as they do not have an expiration date, and the passenger’s right to a cash refund is clearly outlined in the offer
  • Allow major airlines to pay for the cash refunds using government aid, except for the money gained from the CARES Act which is designated for employee wages and benefits
  • The right to a cash refund is retroactive to March 1, meaning any passenger who has accepted a voucher for a flight on or after that date but has not used it, can request a cash refund now
  • The right to cash refunds will be available for six months after the end of nationwide coronavirus emergency declarations

In response to the proposed bill, Airlines for America has said they worry that the struggling carriers would not survive the crisis should they be forced to issue cash refunds.

What do you think about the proposed bill? Let us know in the comments!

View Comments (23)


  1. TonyBurr

    May 14, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    We, the people, vailed out the airlines. The money should not be used for the high salaries and bonuses of the executives and also gold onto the money of the passengers which will also be used for perks for executives. I agree with this legislation.

  2. strickerj

    May 14, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with cash refunds for passengers that canceled non-refundable flights (airlines already waived cancellation fees, which they weren’t required to do), but if the airline cancels, they absolutely owe refunds. Air Canada suspended service to my city entirely, and they’re only offering vouchers tied to the name of each passenger, when I’m not sure at this point if we’re rescheduling the trip, and if it’ll be the same people going. They could have at least followed the cruise lines and offered a choice between a full cash refund or a voucher for more than the original fare – I’d have taken the latter in that case.

  3. jonsail

    May 14, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    Travel on airplanes currently violates the government’s own social distancing guidelines. Customers should get refunds. However, if that is not politically possible credits in lieu of refunds should come with these conditions:
    1) No expiration date, and
    2) They should be legally capable of being gifted or sold.

  4. zarathustraween

    May 14, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    It is perfectly reasonable to validate passenger rights by enacting this legislation to protect the drivers of the economy – the consumers.

    It is perfectly OK for airlines to go bankrupt, and either restructure or be bailed out by their governments if they are deemed “too big to fail.”

    Market demand disappears all the time on businesses through no fault of their own. Passengers paid for something they never did, and in many cases never will receive.

    I hope this law applies to US consumers who booked international travel as well.

  5. OZFLYER86

    May 14, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    dear stupid u.s. senators, you can’t afford it, you idiots. How can people so dumb get elected in USA ?

  6. stablemate77

    May 14, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    i agree airlines have cashed in the last few years have to pay for a bag

  7. canver5

    May 15, 2020 at 4:56 am

    A similar issue involves cruise line refunds. My cruise on Regent seven seas cruise lines stated that only future credit would be given if the cruise was canceled. So I had no choice but to proactively cancel early to at least get 50% of my money back. After the cruise was canceled they changed their stance and offered cash refunds. I feel I was giving false information which has cost me half of my fee and I have been trying to get this back. They said they are not doing any refunds for at least 90 days.So I have has yet to see any money.

  8. arcticflier

    May 15, 2020 at 5:11 am

    If a person could afford to book a vacation then they can afford to take the cancellation loss or battle with the agency, hotel, airline, etc.

    My tax dollars and childrens’ future does not need to be wasted paying for a wealthy Americans canceled travel plans.

  9. arcticflier

    May 15, 2020 at 5:16 am

    The families struggling to pay for food, housing & prescriptions are not the Americans going to benefit by this because they were not booking travel pre-Covid.

    This is “fat cat” Legislation.

  10. Podcat

    May 15, 2020 at 6:21 am


  11. RedElmo

    May 15, 2020 at 8:18 am

    That means as a tax payer I’m paying others back for their ticket. Great! I should have booked more flights too then. Didn’t need to be so conservative

  12. drummer1972

    May 15, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Some really dumb comments @ arcticflier “your children future” what entitles your children to a future they have not earned or paid anything into??? Unbelievable that people don’t support a refund for customers that paid for a airline ticket but don’t deserve their money back…..” Wealthy Americans” you must live in the southern states where the average hourly rate is $8.50. Have a look on Southwest website, you can flight round trip under $200…..

  13. mvoight

    May 15, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    I am ok with a credit if doesn’t expire.

  14. strickerj

    May 16, 2020 at 9:24 am

    I’m not sure I understand the criticism here – the bailouts have been issued already; this legislation just stipulates that refunds have to be provided for canceled flights. I’d rather the customers be made whole than for the companies to be able to double dip. It’s a dangerous precedent to argue that customers who are contractually entitled to refunds shouldn’t receive them because “they can afford the loss”.

  15. CEB

    May 16, 2020 at 9:28 am

    While agreeing in principle with the concept, to characterize the airlines behavior as “profiting on the back of American consumers” is disingenuous at best and maliciously deceptive at worst. The airlines are very clearly in a battle to survive in this crisis, and their survival affects the livelihoods of thousands of hard working American employees of the airlines. Making such comments simply exacerbates unwarranted attacks on ‘corporations’ and fails to recognize that corporations do not pay taxes, people do. Regardless of what tax rates are imposed on a corporation, the consumer is the ultimate payer of those taxes. So let’s not mislead the public with rancorous comments that are irrelevant to the issue.

    Again, I agree that the consumer should be entitled to a refund, but we should also remember that many of those tickets have been purchased by companies/corporations for business travel. So the question will always be present as to whether and where the money should be in order to maximize the benefit to society. Unfortunately, it is easy for those of us who are in the at risk age group and living comfortably (perhaps not wealthy, but secure in our life style) to be smug and protective of ourselves. But we should also recognize that the current government overreach is not, in reality, saving lives. In reality it is simply shifting the ’cause of death’ from the corona virus to poverty and homelessness. Ultimately, we will all die at some point. That does not mean we should be careless and disregard the risks, rather we need to balance the risks, educate the populous, and provide reasonable guidelines along with regular reminders (i.e. propaganda/marketing) or proper precautions to protect our population without destroying our economy. Unfortunately, at this point it is too late as the combination of irresponsible media, incompetent government (at BOTH the state and federal levels) and a generally ignorant public have created a perfect storm of public panic and government imposition of Marshall law leading to the current collapse of the world economy. Eventually we will recover, but not until we learn to ignore the irresponsible media manipulation and pandering government overreach.

  16. kklems

    May 16, 2020 at 11:16 am

    Wonder how this will apply to flights on SWA that I booked and cancelled after using gift cards to pay for part of the fare?

  17. Cymbo

    May 17, 2020 at 7:02 am

    Way too sensible and fair to be passed into law!! The airlines get major bailouts and screw the passengers who in the main are taxpayers who have funded the bailouts. I am starting to understand why so many people hate the major airlines!

  18. Bowen74

    May 18, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    The result would be a book titled “How to take down a major airline”

  19. sackdzmom

    May 19, 2020 at 5:13 am

    RedElmo, you answer does not make much sense, does it? Passengers would not receive more than they paid, so what benefit would it have been for you to book and pay for more flights, only to have them cancelled and then wait to get back your own money that you paid in? I do not agree that airlines should be required to pay cash refunds for flights that are not cancelled by them, but by the choice of the passenger. But if the airline cancels, then yes, the consumer has paid for a service in advance that they are not receiving due to the airline’s actions (except in the case of international flights where the airline has been blocked by the foreign country from entering their country).. And regarding the comment from “arcticflier”, not all travel booked is for “vacations.” Sick relatives, parent/child emergencies, personal healthcare (have you been to Mayo?), job searches, and many other reasons exist for travel.

  20. flyerCO

    May 19, 2020 at 5:19 am

    @strickerj – AC is required to refund for flights they cancel/don’t operate. If they give you hassle, a chargeback is appropriate.

  21. arcticflier

    May 20, 2020 at 10:01 am


    Why do they keep getting re-elected? You don’t have to be intelligent to be elected to office here in the US, you just have to be smarter than the idiots who elect you.

  22. arcticflier

    May 20, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Yes some really dumb posts here.
    Thanks for setting an example.

  23. strickerj

    May 21, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    @flyerCO: Thanks, I was hoping they’d reverse course in light of the DOT guideline, but seeing the response they gave in the Air Canada Refunds Master Thread, I’m thinking DOT complaint and chargeback might be only choice.

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