Dhaka: Airlines must fully refund airfare to passengers whose flights have been cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the US Transportation Department ordered on April 3.
It is receiving a growing number of complaints from people who say airlines have refused to pay refunds after flights were cancelled, the agency said in a press release and an enforcement notice.
“The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control,” the agency said.
The directive applies to domestic and foreign airlines for flights to, within, or from the US. People are also protected when an airline “makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier,” according to the department.
The European Union recently issued a similar statement, saying EU law requires reimbursements to be made within seven days.
“Airlines must refund cancelled flight tickets,” Adina Valean, Transport Commissioner of EU said in an emailed statement. “They can of course also offer a voucher but - and this is very important - only if the customer agrees to accept this.”
The US order threatens to add more financial strain to an industry that is facing severe challenges from a dramatic plunge in demand even as it prepares to start receiving USD 50 billion in loans and payroll assistance payments contained in a government bailout package.
As of April 2, passenger traffic had fallen about 95 per cent compared with a year ago, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Only 124,021 passed through security that day compared with 2.4 million on the equivalent weekday in 2019.