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DOT pushes airlines to clarify policies as cancellations, expiring flight credits cause confusion

“The message to the airlines is you’ve got to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights," said Sec. Pete Buttigieg

ST. LOUIS — If you're one of the millions of Americans who had a flight canceled due to COVID, you might want to check the status of your flight credit.

For many, those credits may expire at the end of the year.

In January of 2020, Linda Watson and her husband booked a trip to Texas to see an elderly relative.

“COVID came about and we couldn’t go,” said Linda Watson.

Over the last two years, the Watsons hadn’t considered flying, but that changed when she got a letter from American Airlines.

“We started getting letters saying your ticket is about to run out,” said Watson. “We started looking at it, and my husband pulled up his and his credit was there for $779. Mine was $0.”

Watson said she spent hours going back and forth with American Airlines customer service trying to figure out where her money went.

“They couldn’t explain why his credit was there and mine wasn’t,” said Watson. “Their bottom line was no refund.”

In a letter to airline CEOs, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg called the level of disruption unacceptable.

Buttigieg provided the airlines with a list of demands including clarifying policies on refunds and travel vouchers.

“The message to the airlines is you’ve got to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights and you’ve got to support passengers when they’ve experienced delays or cancellations,” Buttigieg said.

While the Department of Transportation and the airlines work on a long-term fix, 5 On Your Side asked AAA spokesman Nick Chabarria if there were any other options for consumers or if this credit was truly use it or lose it.

“Some airlines will work with travelers depending on the situation,” said Chabarria. “A lot of flights that were canceled in 2020 are expiring at the end of 2022 now, so it certainly could be an issue if they haven’t used that credit yet.”

Now, the Department of Transportation is rushing to get a website explaining each airline’s policy up and running before Labor Day Weekend.

“There needs to be some more rigid guidelines as to how these situations are handled,” said Chabarria.

“They’re not taking into consideration the elderly, the sick, and just people in general that are uncomfortable getting onto an airplane with people breathing down their necks,” said Watson.

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If there’s something newsworthy where you live send us an email to tips@ksdk.com and our team of reporters will look into it.

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