US Senators: Airlines must give full cash refunds for COVID-19 cancellations
Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today led a group of their colleagues in a letter sent to each of the major domestic airlines, urging every company to issue full cash refunds to all customers who cancel their flights during the COVID-19 crisis, and to American citizens who encounter flight cancellations while stranded in countries that implemented travel restrictions. This request comes in the wake of Congress passing an unprecedented bailout for the airline industry, including $25 billion in loans for passenger air carriers.
Although most domestic airlines have taken some steps to temporarily waive coronavirus-related change and cancellation fees, travelers who cancel their flights are finding that they will receive only airline credits, not cash refunds. Unfortunately, these travel vouchers do the public little good in this time of emergency, when Americans need money now to pay for basic necessities. Many Americans have also experienced expensive flight cancellations by commercial airlines – without reimbursement – as they sought to return to the United States from countries that implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Letters were sent to the following companies: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and United Airlines.
“The ongoing pandemic is placing enormous financial strain on millions of Americans, and families need cash to pay for essentials such as food, housing, and medical care,” write the Senators. “In light of this pressing need and the unprecedented bailout — to the tune of $25 billion — that the airline industry just received from Congress, we believe your company has a moral responsibility to provide real refunds, not travel vouchers, to consumers, and to support State Department efforts to repatriate any American citizens trying to come home.”
The letter was also signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.).
The lawmakers ask the airlines to respond to questions that include:
- What is the estimated total value of all travel vouchers and credits you have issued during the coronavirus pandemic?
- What is the estimated total number of flights that your airline cancelled during the COVID-19 crisis, including flights cancelled due to travel restrictions implemented by countries globally?
- Will your airline commit to providing full cash refunds to travelers who cancel their flights during the coronavirus outbreak, including refunds in lieu of travel credits to those who have already received but not used those credits during this pandemic?
- Will your airline commit to providing full cash refunds to any travelers who experienced flight cancellations due to COVID-19 travel restrictions implemented globally?
Will your airline commit to working with the State Department to expedite commercial flights – at an affordable price – for all Americans who remain stranded abroad?