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Blumenthal Applauds New Federal Consumer Protections for Airline Passengers

Department of Transportation rules to require automatic refunds, shield consumers from surprise junk fees

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal released the following statement after the Department of Transportation issued two final rules to expand consumer protections for airline travelers. The first rule requires airlines to provide automatic cash refunds for passengers when owed due to significant flight changes, such as departure or arrival times that are more than three hours domestically and six hours internationally off from their scheduled times. Previously, refund policies were at the discretion of each airline, meaning what kind of flight changes warranted a refund differed from airline to airline. The second rule protects consumers from unexpected fees when purchasing tickets by requiring airline and ticket agents to tell consumers upfront about fees outside of the ticket price, such as for checked bags, carry-on bags, and changing or cancelling a reservation.

“I’m pleased that the Biden Administration is heeding calls like mine for stiffer remedies against greed-driven junk fees, canceled or delayed flights, and other consumer abuses,” said Blumenthal. “Flyers deserve basic rights — services they pay for and compensation when they’re denied. All fees need to be fully disclosed up front and refunds made right away — as these new rules will help do. Basic fairness shouldn’t be up in the air for airlines.”

Blumenthal previously joined Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Chairwoman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in writing to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling for enhanced consumer protections for travelers who are eligible for airline ticket refunds.

Blumenthal is also the author of S.178, the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. The comprehensive legislation would ensure that airlines provide passengers with fair compensation, refunds, and recourse in the event of airline-caused flight delays and cancellations, require airlines to pay at least $1,350 to passengers denied boarding as a result of an oversold flight, and mandate airlines to immediately refund bag fees for damaged or lost bags.