According to the US Department of Transportation, the number of complaints related to air travel surged about 8 times. Most of these complaints were related to refunds for the tickets that never flew.
Usually the department would get about 1,500 complaints in an average month. But In March and April, the Department of Transportation received more than 25,000 complaints. This was one of the reasons why the Department of Transportation had to issue a set of guidelines.
“The Department has received an unprecedented volume of complaints from passengers and is examining this issue closely to ensure that airlines’ policies and practices conform to DOT’s refund rules,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a release. “The Department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time.”
The new guidelines from the department clarifies that if the customer cancels the flight they might not be entitled to a refund or travel credit. However, the department clarify that refunds should come within seven days, if the flier paid by credit card.
“Although not required, many airlines are providing travel credits or vouchers that can be used for future travel for those passengers electing to cancel their travel due to health or safety concerns related to COVID-19,” according to the department.
The department said in April that airlines have to provide refunds to ticketed passengers when the airline cancels or significantly changes the customer’s flight, and the customer doesn’t take the alternative offered by the airline. However, the terms “significant change” and “cancellation” are left to be interpreted by individual airlines.