Anyone who had plans to fly this spring or summer is probably getting extremely familiar with airlines’ ever-evolving rebooking and refund policies.
Amid a barrage of travel restrictions, shelter-at-home orders, and constant airline route suspensions due to coronavirus, there is a lot for perspective air passengers to sort out. Delta’s cancellation policy has made the process a bit easier on its fliers: The airline is extending the window of time to rebook flights for more than two years.
The policy is to give its customers “some extra breathing room,” a Delta release says. And in a time when travel operations remain uncertain due to the outbreak, it’s sure to be a welcome change. Many U.S. airlines are giving passengers a travel credit for the value of their flights, but with the stipulation that travel must be completed within a year of the original ticketing date–a rule that more severely limits travelers’ options going forward. A few of the larger airlines, including United and American, have followed Delta and extended their voucher booking windows beyond the standard 12 months.
“Tickets normally expire one year after purchase, but we’re providing waived change fees and greater flexibility” to travel through September 2022, Delta’s policy says. The new rule applies to any passengers with tickets booked as of April 3 for travel in April or May 2020, or have existing travel credits or canceled flights from March, April, or May 2020. Any customer with an applicable credit will have it automatically extending through September 2022.
The Delta cancellation policy is extremely flexible and will help passengers who no longer want to fly or those that prefer refunds in the form of a travel credit. But it’s important for passengers to know that in certain cases, they may be entitled to a cash refund instead. According to regulations from the Department of Transportation, if any airline operating within the U.S. cancels or significantly changes the timing of a flight, it must offer customers a cash refund, not just a travel credit.
“If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation—even for non-refundable tickets,” says the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection page. “You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”
The DOT recently said it had received so many complaints from passengers not able to obtain a refund that it issued an enforcement notice reminding airlines of its regulations. “The Department is receiving an increasing number of complaints and inquiries from ticketed passengers, including many with non-refundable tickets, who describe having been denied refunds for flights that were cancelled or significantly delayed,” the enforcement notice says. “In many of these cases, the passengers stated that the carrier informed them that they would receive vouchers or credits for future travel. Carriers have a longstanding obligation to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.”
The enforcement notice continues to say that given the impact of coronavirus, the DOT will give airlines a grace period to become compliant with the regulations by notifying passengers of canceled flights with vouchers that they are entitled to a cash refund instead.
We’re reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.
This article was last published on April 3, 2020. It has since been updated with new information.
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