To stop hemorrhaging profits and to try enticing people to fly again, airlines have been waiving change fees on booking, in some cases for up to a year, to give fliers more flexibility and alleviate worries. The move is unprecedented for airlines, which charged hundreds of dollars to make changes before the pandemic. But many who already purchased tickets found that obtaining an actual cash refund from an airline was like getting blood from a stone.
“Let’s be very clear,” said McGee. “Consumers are at the hands of airlines in the United States. “Unlike Europe or Canada, the government regulations here are not so strong in protecting passengers. Every time you book a flight and swipe your card, you’re agreeing to a 90-page contract that was written by and for the airlines.”
Since complaints began rising against airlines at the start of the pandemic, the Department of Transportation, which oversees the aviation industry, warned carriers not to be so parsimonious with refunds. According to the DOT, during an average March and April, the agency fields about 1,500 complaints. This year that number was 25,000 complaints.
But the wording of the Aviation Enforcement Act is so murky that’s it’s difficult to pin down the exact rules for refunds. A statement meant to clarify passenger rights issued last month was more confusing than helpful and leaned heavily in favor of airlines calling the shots of what merits a refund and what doesn’t.
In April, Democratic Senators Ed Markey