NBC 5 Responds

New rules could mean more refunds for airline travelers. Here's the possible impact

You may have money coming your way the next time your flight is impacted

NBC Universal, Inc.

New Department of Transportation rules are now in effect when it comes to delayed and canceled flights and significant baggage delays.

"Any cancellation or significant change in a flight is eligible for a refund, regardless of the reason for it," the DOT said. This includes weather-related cancellations.

What constitutes a "significant change"? The Department of Transportation told NBC 5 Responds, "Significant changes to a flight include departure or arrival times that are more than 3 hours domestically and 6 hours internationally; departures or arrivals from a different airport; increases in the number of connections" and more.

That means if you choose not to take the delayed flight you can get a full refund.

When it comes to your luggage, the DOT says: "Passengers who file a mishandled baggage report will be entitled to a refund of their checked bag fee if it is not delivered within 12 hours of their domestic flight arriving at the gate, or 15-30 hours of their international flight arriving at the gate, depending on the length of the flight." 

Potential Consumer Impact

The company Upgraded Points crunched the numbers to see how the new rules could impact the airlines.

"This report looked at data from 2023 and what it found was that about 3% of domestic flights or a bit over 200,000 flights last year would have been affected by this regulation," Mike LaFirenza of Upgraded Points explained. "And that would have been approximately $5 billion in domestic airfares that could have qualified for these refunds."

Upgraded Points also homed in on what this could mean for Chicago-area travelers.

"Chicago, specifically, we saw about 200 million in annual estimated refunds potentially based off numbers from 2023, and that's over 10,000 flights," said LaFirenza.

NBC 5 Responds took the findings from Upgraded Points to Airlines for America, the trade organization that represents the largest domestic carriers in the United States. Sharon Pinkerton, the senior vice president of legislative and regulatory policy at A4A, called the findings "completely unrealistic."

"The key thing that they're forgetting is most people, if their flight is delayed three hours, will take the flight. Because they need to get where they're going," Pinkerton told NBC 5 Responds.

Pinkerton went on to explain that although the effective date of the DOT rule was June 25, 2024, airlines have until Oct. 28 of this year to implement the rule. So, check with your airline to see if they have adopted the policy.

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