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What You Need to Know: Understanding the New US Airline Regulations

Flying just got a whole lot friendlier for travelers!


On April 24, 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration has rolled out a game-changing rule that makes getting your money back from airlines a breeze. Whether it's a canceled flight, a significantly changed schedule, or a delayed checked bag, you can now enjoy automatic cash refunds without the hassle.


What the New Rule Means for You


This new regulation promises to put passengers first, ensuring your travel experience is as smooth as possible. Buckle up and get ready to learn how these changes will make your next trip stress-free!


The final rule mandates that airlines must:


  • Automatically issue refunds without requiring passengers to request them.

  • Provide refunds within seven business days for credit card purchases and within 20 calendar days for other payment methods.

  • Refund in the original form of payment, including cash, credit card, or airline miles.


Moreover, airlines can no longer substitute vouchers, travel credits, or other forms of compensation unless passengers explicitly choose these alternatives AND airlines must promptly notify passengers affected by canceled or significantly changed flights about their right to a refund, including any policies related to these rights.

This rule is part of a broader effort by the Biden-Harris Administration and DOT to enhance airline passenger rights. Highlights include:


  • Ensuring all major U.S. airlines guarantee free rebooking and meals, and most guarantee hotel accommodations for delays or cancellations caused by airline issues.

  • Returning over $3 billion in refunds and reimbursements to passengers since President Biden took office.

  • Issuing over $164 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations.

Let's break things down further...


1. Automatic Cash Refunds for Canceled or Significantly Changed Flights

Under the new rule, airlines must automatically issue refunds when they cancel or significantly change a flight. Here’s what qualifies as a significant change:


  • Departure or arrival time changes by more than 3 hours domestically or 6 hours internationally.

  • Departures or arrivals from a different airport.

  • An increase in the number of connections.

  • Downgrading passengers to a lower class of service.

  • Connections at different airports or flights on less accessible planes for passengers with disabilities.


If your flight falls into any of these categories and you do not accept alternative transportation or travel credits, you are entitled to an automatic refund.


2. Refunds for Delayed Checked Bags


If your checked bag is significantly delayed, you’re entitled to a refund of the checked bag fee:


  • For domestic flights, if your bag is not delivered within 12 hours of arrival.

  • For international flights, if your bag is not delivered within 15-30 hours, depending on the flight duration.


3. Refunds for Ancillary Services Not Provided

Passengers who pay for extra services like Wi-Fi, seat selection, or in-flight entertainment must receive a refund if these services are not provided.


4. Special Provisions for Health-Related Travel Restrictions


If passengers are restricted by a government or advised by a medical professional not to travel due to a serious communicable disease, airlines must provide travel credits or vouchers. These credits or vouchers must be transferable and valid for at least five years from the date of issuance.


Future Initiatives


DOT is also working on further improvements such as:


  • A ban on family seating fees, ensuring parents can sit with their children for no extra charge.

  • Mandatory compensation and amenities for passengers affected by flight delays or cancellations.

  • Expanding rights for passengers with disabilities, particularly those who use wheelchairs.


For more details on the final rule, visit the DOT's Latest News or regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2022-0089.


These new regulations represent a significant win for travelers, making it easier and faster to get refunds for disrupted travel plans. As we move forward, stay informed about your rights and make the most of the protections now available to you. Safe travels!


For more information about your airline passenger rights and DOT’s rules, visit the DOT Air Consumer page.


What Does This Mean for Condor?


While Condor Tours and Travel is not a ticketing agent or the merchant of record for air ticket purchases, we're here to help you with all your air travel needs.


Whether you're bundling your flights with a Delta Vacations package, booking a cruise, joining a group tour, or customizing a unique travel experience, Condor is ready to assist. We’ll ensure you have all the necessary documentation and written receipts to take full advantage of these new refund regulations. Travel with peace of mind knowing that Condor has your back every step of the way!



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