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Will new DOT rule impact UA's two hour schedule change rule?

Old Apr 24, 2024, 5:04 pm
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Last edit by: WineCountryUA
DOT Press Releases 24 April 2024
Biden-Harris Administration Announces Final Rule Requiring Automatic Refunds of Airline Tickets and Ancillary Service Fees
Biden-Harris Administration Announces Final Rule to Protect Consumers from Surprise Airline Junk Fees
Final Rule Refunds and Other Consumer Protections (2105-AF04)_0.pdf
FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Rules to Deliver Automatic Refunds and Protect Consumers from Surprise Junk Fees in Air Travel

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Rules to Deliver Automatic Refunds and Protect Consumers from Surprise Junk Fees in Air Travel
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Newly finalized rules will mandate automatic, cash refunds for cancelled or significantly delayed flights and save consumers over half a billion dollars every year in airline fees

WASHINGTON – Building on a historic record of expanding consumer protections and standing up for airline passengers, the Biden-Harris Administration announced final rules that require airlines to provide automatic cash refunds to passengers when owed and protect consumers from costly surprise airline fees. These rules will significantly expand consumer protections in air travel, provide passengers an easier pathway to refunds when owed, and save consumers over half a billion dollars every year in hidden and surprise junk fees.

“Passengers deserve to know upfront what costs they are facing and should get their money back when an airline owes them - without having to ask,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Today’s announcements will require airlines to both provide passengers better information about costs before ticket purchase, and promptly provide cash refunds to passengers when they are owed — not only saving passengers time and money, but also preventing headaches.”

The rules are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to lower costs for consumers and take on corporate rip-offs. President Biden signed an Executive Order on Promoting Competition in 2021 that encouraged DOT to take steps to promote fairer, more transparent, and competitive markets.

Requiring Automatic Cash Airline Refunds
The first rule requires airlines to promptly provide passengers with automatic cash refunds when owed because their flights are cancelled or significantly changed, their checked bags are significantly delayed, or the ancillary services, like Wi-Fi, they purchased are not provided.

Without this rule, consumers have to navigate a patchwork of cumbersome processes to request and receive a refund — searching through airline websites to figure out how to make the request, filling out extra “digital paperwork,” or at times waiting for hours on the phone. Passengers would also receive a travel credit or voucher by default from many airlines instead of getting their money back, so they could not use their refund to rebook on another airline when their flight was changed or cancelled without navigating a cumbersome request process.

DOT’s rule makes it simple and straightforward for passengers to receive the money they are owed. The final rule requires refunds to be:
  • Automatic: Airlines must automatically issue refunds without passengers having to explicitly request them or jump through hoops.
  • Prompt: Airlines and ticket agents must promptly 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.



Protecting Against Surprise Airline Junk Fees
Secondly, DOT is requiring airlines and ticket agents to tell consumers upfront what fees they charge for checked bags, a carry-on bag, for changing a reservation, or cancelling a reservation. This ensures that consumers can avoid surprise fees when they purchase tickets from airlines or ticket agents, including both brick-and-mortar travel agencies or online travel agencies.


The rule will help consumers avoid unneeded or unexpected charges that can increase quickly and add significant cost to what may, at first, look like a cheap ticket. Extra fees, like checked baggage and change fees, have been a growing source of revenue for airlines, while also becoming more complex and confusing for passengers over time. In total, thanks to the final rule, consumers are expected to save over half a billion dollars every year that they are currently overpaying in airline fees.

DOT’s rule ensures that consumers have the information they need to better understand the true costs of air travel. Under the final rule, airlines are required to:
  • Disclose baggage, change, and cancellation fees upfront: Each fee must be disclosed the first time that fare and schedule information is provided on the airline’s online platform -- and cannot be displayed through a hyperlink.
  • Explain fee policies before ticket purchase: For each type of baggage, airlines and ticket agents must spell out the weight and dimension limitations that they impose. They must also describe any prohibitions or restrictions on changing or cancelling a flight, along with policies related to differences in fare when switching to a more or less expensive flight.
  • Share fee information with third parties: An airline must provide useable, current, and accurate information regarding its baggage, change, and cancellation fees and policies to any company that is required to disclose them to consumers and receives fare, schedule, and availability information from that airline.
  • Inform consumers that seats are guaranteed: When offering an advance seat assignment for a fee, airlines and ticket agents must let consumers know that purchasing a seat is not necessary to travel, so consumers can avoid paying unwanted seat selection fees.
  • Provide both standard and passenger-specific fee information: Consumers can choose to view passenger-specific fee information based on their participation in the airline’s rewards program, their military status, or the credit card that they use — or they can decide to stay anonymous and get the standard fee information.
  • End discount bait-and-switch tactics: The final rule puts an end to the bait-and-switch tactics some airlines use to disguise the true cost of discounted flights. It prohibits airlines from advertising a promotional discount off a low base fare that does not include all mandatory carrier-imposed fees.
DOT’s Historic Record of Consumer Protection Under the Biden-Harris Administration
Both of these actions were suggested for consideration by the DOT in the Executive Order on Promoting Competition and build on historic steps the Biden-Harris Administration has already taken to expand consumer protections, promote competition, and protect air travelers. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, DOT has advanced the largest expansion of airline passenger rights, issued the biggest fines against airlines for failing consumers, and returned more money to passengers in refunds and reimbursements than ever before in the Department’s history.
  • DOT launched the flightrights.gov dashboard, and now all 10 major U.S. airlines guarantee free rebooking and meals, and nine guarantee hotel accommodations when an airline issue causes a significant delay or cancellation. These are new commitments the airlines added to their customer service plans that DOT can legally ensure they adhere to and are displayed on flightrights.gov.
  • Since President Biden took office, DOT has helped return more than $3 billion in refunds and reimbursements owed to airline passengers – including over $600 million to passengers affected by the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown in 2022.
  • DOT has issued over $164 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations. Between 1996 and 2020, DOT collectively issued less than $71 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations.
  • DOT recently launched a new partnership with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general to fast-track the review of consumer complaints, hold airlines accountable, and protect the rights of the traveling public.
  • In 2023, the flight cancellation rate in the U.S. was a record low at under 1.2% — the lowest rate of flight cancellations in over 10 years despite a record amount of air travel.
  • DOT is undertaking its first ever industry-wide review of airline privacy practices and its first review of airline loyalty programs
In addition to finalizing the rules to require automatic refunds and protect consumers from surprise fees, DOT is also pursuing rulemakings that would:
  • Propose to ban family seating junk fees and guarantee that parents can sit with their children for no extra charge when they fly. Before President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg pressed airlines last year, no airline committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating. Now, four airlines guarantee fee-free family seating, as the Department is working on its family seating junk fee ban proposal.
  • Propose to make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight delays or cancellations.
  • Expand the rights for passengers who use wheelchairs and ensure that they can travel safely and with dignity. The comment period on this proposed rule closes on May 13, 2024.
Travelers can learn more about their protections when they fly at FlightRights.gov. Consumers may file an airline complaint with the Department here.

New DOT rule vs EU261
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Will new DOT rule impact UA's two hour schedule change rule?

Old Apr 24, 2024, 3:42 pm
  #16  
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Originally Posted by physioprof
If I'm understanding correctly, UA's policy is already more generous than this? If so, it's not at all clear to me why UA would change its policy, and rather it seems most likely that UA will trumpet that it is already more flexible/generous than required?
I could see United aligning their existing voluntary policies to match this new required policy for simplifcation, e.g. it's always 3h, not sometimes 2h.
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Old Apr 24, 2024, 4:17 pm
  #17  
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Originally Posted by UAflyerwhoflystomuch
Is there "travel credits" for delays though? Is it really like EU261 or not really
Don't confusion this with EU261. This is just refund of non-refundable tickets, no other compensation, no new duty of care.

Originally Posted by mduell
I could see United aligning their existing voluntary policies to match this new required policy for simplifcation, e.g. it's always 3h, not sometimes 2h.
UA is presently always 2 hours. DOT is 3 hours domestically and 6 hours internationally. Advance schedule change is the big unknown.
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Old Apr 24, 2024, 9:33 pm
  #18  
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I just went through the 272 pages of the new rules. I found no (unless I missed them) exceptions to rule for delays caused by ATC or weather or whatever. It's strictly if you know before you board the flight will be delayed beyond, or arrive after, the defined limits, one can receive a refund.

It's basically a guarantee one isn't out money if he/she doesn't want to get on a delayed flight(s). One could outsmart themself by buying two one-ways as a way of saving money somehow and only being able to get money back on one segment due to the new rule.
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Old Apr 24, 2024, 9:39 pm
  #19  
 
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I am a little confused. Lets say a domestic flight is delayed 4 hours and you still take the flight. Are you able to a get a refund on the ticket price EVEN THOUGH you flew the leg? Or could u just be able to cancel the ticket and get a refund? Please explain
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Old Apr 24, 2024, 9:50 pm
  #20  
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Another gem

In addition, this final rule requires U.S. and foreign air carriers to provide transferrable travel vouchers or credits valid for at least 5 years to consumers holding non-refundable tickets for scheduled flights to, from, or within the United States who are restricted by a government or advised by a medical professional not to travel to, from, or within the United States due to a serious communicable disease.
For consumers who are unable to or advised not to travel as scheduled on flights to, from, or within the United States because of a serious communicable disease, the Department is requiring that carriers provide travel vouchers or credits that are transferrable and valid for at least 5 years from the date of issuance. Carriers may require consumers to provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are unable to travel or have been advised not to travel to support their request for a travel voucher or credit, unless the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publishes guidance declaring that requiring such documentary evidence is not in the public interest.
The Ticket Refund NPRM also proposed to require airlines and ticket agents to issue non-expiring travel credits or vouchers, and under certain circumstances, refunds in lieu of the travel credits or vouchers, to consumers when they: (1) are restricted or prohibited from traveling by a governmental entity due to a serious communicable disease (e.g., as a result of a stay at home order, entry restriction, or border closure); (2) are advised by a medical professional or determine consistent with public health guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), comparable agencies in other countries, or the World Health Organization (WHO) not to travel during a public health emergency to protect themselves from a serious communicable disease; or (3) are advised by a medical professional or determine consistent with public health guidance issued by CDC, comparable agencies in other countries, or WHO not to travel, irrespective of any declaration of a public health emergency, because they have or may have contracted a serious communicable disease and their condition would pose a direct threat to the health of others. Under the Department’s current regulations, there is no requirement for an airline or a ticket agent to issue a refund or travel credit to a passenger holding a non-refundable ticket when the airline operated the flight and the passenger does not travel, regardless of the reason that the passenger does not travel. The Ticket Refund NPRM’s proposals were intended to protect consumers’ financial interests when the disruptions to their travel plans were caused by public health concerns beyond their control, and also to promote safe and adequate air transportation by incentivizing individuals to postpone travel when they are advised by a medical professional or determine, consistent with public health guidance, not to travel to protect themselves from a serious communicable disease or because they have or may have a serious communicable disease that would pose a threat to others.
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Old Apr 24, 2024, 9:55 pm
  #21  
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Originally Posted by UAflyerwhoflystomuch
I am a little confused. Lets say a domestic flight is delayed 4 hours and you still take the flight. Are you able to a get a refund on the ticket price EVEN THOUGH you flew the leg?,,,,
No, refund only when you decide not to travel if there is adely or cancellation by the carrier. What lead you to believe there would be a refund after you traveled?
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Apr 24, 2024 at 11:11 pm
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Old Apr 24, 2024, 10:48 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
No, refund only when uoi decide not to travel if there is adely or cancellation by the carrier. What lead you to believe there would be a refund after you traveled?
I just wanted to confirm ngl
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 12:22 am
  #23  
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NPRM = Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noti...sed_rulemaking
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 11:14 am
  #24  
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Originally Posted by SPN Lifer
NPRM = Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noti...sed_rulemaking
NPRM started in November 2022. https://www.federalregister.gov/docu...er-protections

What was announced yesterday is the yet to be published Final Rule.

https://www.federalregister.gov/publ...er-protections

Suppose to take effect 60 days after being published in Federal Register.
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 11:20 am
  #25  
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Originally Posted by UAflyerwhoflystomuch
...Lets say a domestic flight is delayed 4 hours and you still take the flight. Are you able to a get a refund on the ticket price EVEN THOUGH you flew the leg?...
No, because you accepted the delay by taking the flight.

Originally Posted by UAflyerwhoflystomuch
...Or could u just be able to cancel the ticket and get a refund?...
Yes, because you decided not to accept the delay and opted not to fly on the delayed flight or the alternates provided.

The medical rule gives a voucher valid for up to 5 years, but user still exposed to 5 years of airline price changes and money locked up in ticket doesn't earn interest and is (in general) depreciating. I'm not sure a 5-year voucher is a great thing for the passenger - it is for the airline.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Apr 25, 2024 at 1:47 pm Reason: merged consecutive posts by same member
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 1:54 pm
  #26  
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH
...
The medical rule gives a voucher valid for up to 5 years, but user still exposed to 5 years of airline price changes and money locked up in ticket doesn't earn interest and is (in general) depreciating. I'm not sure a 5-year voucher is a great thing for the passenger - it is for the airline.
The point during COVID, if the passenger was unable or did not want to fly due to COVID concerns but the airline operated the flight, the passenger lost everything (if not reschedule within a year (later extended). This new rule gives the passenger more time to reschedule and not lose the funds. And airlines have to carry the liability until the passenger uses the funds or 5 years.

If the airline cancels, then the passenger gets an immediate refund.
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 5:11 pm
  #27  
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They could align, or may leave as is.

Don’t forget - UA already is more lenient than DOT policy re: refunds within 24 hours - DOT does not require this to happen when the flight is booked within 7 days of travel, though UA seems to not restrict this and gives a refund within 24 hours no matter how close to travel.

not saying they will not match to the new rule, just that there are rules where they are better, so they won’t necessarily just revert to the standard DOT has set.
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 6:05 pm
  #28  
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Originally Posted by emcampbe
....Don’t forget - UA already is more lenient than DOT policy re: refunds within 24 hours - DOT does not require this to happen when the flight is booked within 7 days of travel, though UA seems to not restrict this and gives a refund within 24 hours no matter how close to travel.,,,.
But as mentioned earlier, yesterday, UA did change their policy to match DOT but has not been enforcing that portion of the rule in practice (one case was reported but there were other circumstances -- a ticket purchased to get airside / lounge access)
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 6:31 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
But as mentioned earlier, yesterday, UA did change their policy to match DOT but has not been enforcing that portion of the rule in practice (one case was reported but there were other circumstances -- a ticket purchased to get airside / lounge access)
Airside lunge access, pretty crazy but I've heard of this for sure. More commonly I've heard of people buying tickets to accompany minor or loved one to the gate and then cancel the ticket same day.
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Old Apr 25, 2024, 8:31 pm
  #30  
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
But as mentioned earlier, yesterday, UA did change their policy to match DOT but has not been enforcing that portion of the rule in practice (one case was reported but there were other circumstances -- a ticket purchased to get airside / lounge access)
Point is, it would be pretty easy for them to enforce and match with the DOT standard. They haven't.

Will that happen with this? No one knows at this point, but to assume one way or the other is a bit premature, is all I'm saying.
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