Under current federal and Department of Transportation regulations, passengers are entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled. However, many airlines instead grant vouchers or the option to rebook the flight. The legislation would require them to issue cash refunds.
The bill comes in the wake of thousands of flights delayed or canceled this summer due to airline staffing shortages and increased demand for travel following the outbreak.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than 88,000 flights have been canceled in the U.S. so far this year. Travelers have reported long lines, lost luggage, broken wheelchairs, and lost pets.
“It’s bad enough to miss out on vacation time when your flight gets canceled or an emergency pops up. You shouldn’t also have to fight tooth and nail with an airline for your legally required cash refund,” Whitehouse said in the release.
Other Democrats interested in the plans include Senators Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Representatives Steve Cohen, Chuy Garcia and Jamie Raskin.
The plan also allows travelers to request a refund for flights beginning March 1, 2020, if they have not yet spent their compensation or been offered an alternative.
Passengers who cancel their flight 48 hours before departure would receive a cash refund, and ticket sellers would be required to inform customers of their rights at the time of purchase.
Under the proposals, airlines could be fined $1,000 if they do not issue a refund within 30 days.
Warren and Senator Alex Padilla wrote to the heads of transportation last week urging them to take more responsibility for the impact of delays on passengers.