** See prior coverage on Memorial Day travel delays in the video above.
(WJW) — The federal transportation department wants to make it easier for air travelers to get refunds if their flights are canceled or face lengthy delays.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has had a deluge of airline complaints from travelers whose flights were canceled or “significantly changed,” and whose tickets were non-refundable, according to a press release.
The department already requires ticket refunds for flights that are canceled or changed significantly, but those rules were never clearly defined, according to the release. During the COVID-19 pandemic, carriers began to question whether the department could require those refunds.
What the rule would change
Under the new rule, a flight would be considered canceled if the carrier logged it in their computer system, but it didn’t actually take off. “Significant changes” would mean:
- A domestic flight’s departure or arrival times are delayed by three hours or longer; six hours or longer for an international flight;
- The flight’s departure or arrival airport changes;
- The number of connecting flights increases;
- The aircraft itself is changed, meaning a “downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities.”
“When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the Wednesday news release from the department. “This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines.”
Under the new rule, airlines and travel agents would also have to give passengers flight credits or vouchers without a definite expiration date if they’re unable to travel because of the pandemic — because of travel bans, closed borders or health concerns. Airlines and ticket agents that receive “significant” pandemic-related government assistance also wouldn’t be able to issue those vouchers in lieu of refunds.
At Cleveland-Hopkins airport
There were more than 3,400 departures and 3,400 arrivals at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport in May, according to the latest federal air travel consumer report. Of those departures, 72.6 percent were on time, and 77.1 percent of the airport’s arrivals were on time.
For a better chance of avoiding a cancellation, NerdWallet recommends identifying carriers that are on time.
There are nine airlines and two scheduled charter service providers operating at Cleveland-Hopkins, according to the airport website.
Of those airlines, the least reliable nationwide in May was Alaska Airlines, according to the data. It canceled 3.4% of its flights across the country that month and delayed 5.9%, according to the federal data. Delta canceled 2.9% and delayed 7.9%; jetBlue canceled 2.3% and delayed 11.9%.
The most reliable was Southwest, which only canceled 0.7% of its flights in May, or 809 out of a total 108,027 flights nationwide, the data shows. Delta had the most on-time flights that month, or 80.3% of all flights.
A Cleveland-Hopkins spokesperson recommended travelers always check their flight status before they leave for the airport, “to know ahead of time if there are any issues or delays.”
FOX 8 has reached out to Akron-Canton Airport for a response.
Let your voice be heard
A virtual meeting on the rule proposal is set for Aug. 22. You can request to attend the meeting here. Consumers have 90 days to offer their comments on the rule at the federal regulations website.