U.S. Department of Transportation mandates refunds to airlines for flights cancelled during pandemic

(MENAFN) The US Department of transportation has successfully compelled three major airlines, including the prominent German carrier Lufthansa, to reimburse travelers nearly one billion dollars for flight cancellations and significant schedule changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a statement released on Monday, Lufthansa has agreed to refund USD775 million to affected passengers and pay an additional fine of USD1.1 million. Meanwhile, its Dutch rival KLM has committed to refunding USD113.3 million and will also pay a matching fine of USD113.3 million. South African Airways has agreed to a smaller settlement, refunding USD15.2 million and paying a fine of USD300,000.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized in the statement that travelers should not have to struggle to receive refunds when flights are canceled or substantially altered. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the flight cancellation rate in the United States fell to less than 1.2 percent in 2023, the lowest rate in over a decade, even amid a record number of scheduled flights.

Furthermore, on April 24, the Department of Transportation introduced stricter regulations for US airlines regarding reimbursements and compensation for flight cancellations, schedule modifications, delays, or lost luggage. The new rules mandate that such compensations must be automatic. The department also clarified what constitutes a "significant change," defining it as an adjustment of the arrival or departure time by more than three hours for domestic flights and six hours for international flights, changes involving different airports, increased stops, or downgrades to a lower class than originally booked.



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