Airlines must refund passengers for all canceled flights, and those delayed by more than 3 hours

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the new rules on Wednesday.

Good news for airline travelers: The Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it will roll out new rules that will require airlines to automatically refund passengers cash for canceled and significantly delayed flights.

The agency said the covered delay would be more than three hours for domestic flights and more than six hours for international flights. This includes tickets purchased directly from airlines, travel agents, and third-party sites such as Expedia and Travelocity.

“This is a great day for America’s aviation public,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a news conference Wednesday morning. Buttigieg said the new rules — which require immediate refunds — are the largest expansion of passenger rights in the administration's history.

DOT will also ask airlines for cash refunds if your bags are lost and not delivered within 12 hours.

Airlines will have six months to comply with the new rules.

“Passengers deserve to get their money back when the airline owes them, without any headaches or haggling,” Buttigieg said in a statement.

The Department of Transport said it is also working on rules related to family seating fees, strengthening the rights of passengers traveling in wheelchairs to safe and dignified travel, and mandating compensation and amenities in the event of flights being delayed or canceled by airlines.

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Buttigieg said the Department of Transportation is also working to protect airline passengers from being surprised by hidden fees — a move he estimates will save Americans billions of dollars each year, he said.

According to the Ministry of Transport, Travelers are entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled or significantly changed, and they do not accept alternative transportation or travel credits offered. It also includes significantly delayed baggage return and additional paid and unprovided services, such as Wi-Fi, seat selection or in-flight entertainment.

Buttigieg emphasized that refund requirements are already the standard for airlines, but the new Department of Transportation rules hold airlines accountable and make sure passengers get “the refunds they are owed.”

“Airlines are not excited about making it a higher standard,” Buttigieg said, adding that he “knows they will be able to adapt to this.”

Airlines for America, the trade association for the nation's leading passenger and cargo airlines, told ABC News in a statement that its members “offer a range of options — including fully refundable fares.” Consumers are said to be “given the choice of refundable ticket options with the terms and conditions that best suit their needs in the first search results.”

According to their data, A4A member carriers issued $43 billion in customer refunds between the years 2020-2023.

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