Washington — Democratic Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal are pressuring airlines to make sure credits issued for flights canceled during the pandemic never expire, if they decline to offer full refunds.
The two lawmakers wrote to all major airlines on Monday, calling it “unconscionable” that airlines are often refusing to return passengers’ money even as the industry sits on more than $10 billion in unused travel credits. Markey and Blumenthal, along with other Democratic senators including then-Senator Kamala Harris,airlines to issue refunds instead of credits for canceled flights.
Markey and Blumenthal said airlines should follow through with non-expiring credits or refunds regardless of whether the airline or the customer canceled the trip.
“Although many air travelers had to cancel flights due to no fault of their own, many airlines have denied them the cash refunds they deserve, and are instead issuing temporary flight credits that are now beginning to expire despite the ongoing health emergency,” the Markey and Blumenthal wrote. “Accordingly, we write to urge your airline to make all flight credits — including those already issued and those that have expired during the pandemic — valid indefinitely by default.”
“We must first reiterate our belief that your airline should offer a cash refund for all tickets on flights canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, whether by the airline of traveler,” they continued. “Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing and prescriptions during this emergency. It is unconscionable that airlines are largely refusing to return customers’ money even as the industry sits on more than $10 billion in unused travel credits. However, even as we continue to push for cash refunds, it is imperative that, at a minimum, your company does not subject pandemic-related flight credits to an expiration date.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only recently acknowledged that fully vaccinated Americans can resume travel within the U.S., without testing or quarantining.
The airlines have received billions in economic stimulus payments from the federal government and taxpayers during the pandemic.
The senators gave the airlines until May 28 to respond to a number of questions, including whether they will provide a full cash refund for all canceled trips and whether they will nix all expiration dates for travel credits.
Kris Van Cleave contributed to this report