Frequent flyers caught short in the airline shut down last year caused by the ravages of COVID-19 may be able to benefit by recent action taken this week by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), sitting members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
The Democratic senators sent a letter to each of the major domestic airlines, urging every company to make all pandemic-related flight credits valid indefinitely by default. Those who were holding tickets they could not refund for cash were given vouchers with varying expiration dates. At the senators urging airlines may be pushed into a more customer-friendly stance when it comes to a fair redemption.
“We must first reiterate our belief that your airline should offer a cash refund for all tickets on flights canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, whether canceled by the airline or traveler,” the senators wrote. “Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing, and prescriptions during this emergency. 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.”
The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for air travelers whose plans have been disrupted by health concerns, government-mandated bans on travel, and closed borders. Although many consumers have had to cancel flights due to no fault of their own, many airlines have denied them the cash refunds they deserve, and are instead issuing temporary flight credits that are now beginning to expire despite the ongoing health emergency.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal previously led their colleagues in demanding airlines offer cash refunds instead of temporary flight credits, as well as filing legislation that would require the return of travelers’ money. This week’s letter follows these prior efforts after new reports have revealed that travelers are struggling to navigate each airline’s complex policies, which may cause countless consumers to be unable to redeem their flight credits or redeem them at a loss.
Letters were sent to the following companies: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.