DOT ANNOUNCES NEW RULEMAKING ON AIRLINE TICKET REFUNDS

September 7, 2022

On August 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT” or “the Department”) published a new proposed rule relating to ticket refunds that would apply to both U.S. and foreign airlines operating to the U.S. This rule is being proposed in response to the pandemic and health-related issues of passengers, as well as to the numerous air travel-related complaints submitted to DOT since 2020 and ongoing cancellations and delays by carriers.  A copy of the full text NPRM is available here 

DOT’s proposed rulemaking on airline ticket refunds is not a final rule. Airlines and interested parties have the opportunity to attempt to influence the language to be included in any final rule by making a public comment during the notice-and comment period, which is currently ongoing.  Comments on the proposed rule are due no later than November 21, 2022.    

Highlights of the proposed rule include but are not limited to:

  • A re-statement of the Department’s longstanding interpretation that failure to provide timely refunds for cancelled or significantly delayed flights amounts to an unfair business practice and ensuring that air travelers receive timely refunds when airlines cancel or significantly change flights. 

  • A proposed requirement that airlines provide passengers with a notification that they are entitled to a refund if that is the case.

  • A proposed requirement that airlines provide passengers who hold non-refundable tickets with non-expiring flight credits or vouchers if such passengers are unable to fly due to certain pandemic related reasons including government-mandated travel bans, closed borders, or if passengers are advised not to travel due to personal health risks or concerns, or the health risks or concerns of other passengers.  And a requirement that airlines issue monetary refunds to passengers instead of non-expiring flight credits or vouchers if they receive “significant government assistance” related to a pandemic.

  • New definitions for the terms, “cancellation” and “significant change”.

We encourage you to review the rule in its entirety, as it raises a number of issues critical to U.S. and foreign air carriers, as well as to travel agents.  DOT has also sought input from interested parties on more than 30 key topics.  If you are interested in submitting a comment, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com 202-659-6622), Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com 202-659-6665), or Alexis George (ageorge@eckertseamans.com 804-788-7772).

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Authors

Evelyn D. Sahr Photo Washington, D.C.

Evelyn D. Sahr

Member - Washington, D.C.

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Drew M. Derco Photo Washington, D.C.

Drew M. Derco

Member - Washington, D.C.

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Alexis A. George Photo Richmond

Alexis A. George

Associate - Richmond

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