Udall, Heinrich Join Legislation Requiring Airlines Return Billions to Consumers During Coronavirus Pandemic

Legislation will require that airlines offer full cash refunds for all cancelled tickets during the ongoing public health emergency

 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined legislation that would require major airlines and third-party ticket sellers to offer full cash refunds for all cancelled tickets during the coronavirus pandemic. The Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act of 2020, which was introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), would require refunds be provided regardless of whether the airline cancelled an entire flight or the passenger cancelled their individual ticket.

When travelers proactively cancel their tickets to protect their own health and public health, the airline industry only provides vouchers, not cash. And even though airlines are required under federal law to offer cash when they cancel an entire flight, most airlines only offer to rebook passengers or provide a voucher as the default option instead, forcing customers to jump through hoops to actually get their money back. 

recent investigation further revealed that the airline industry could be holding onto over $10 billion of hard-earned money from American travelers.

“This bill is simple common sense. At a time when Americans need cash to pay for food, housing, and medical care, consumers should be able to receive cash refunds for travel arrangements that were made before they knew the full impact that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on not just travel plans, but also on their family’s health and livelihood,” said Udall. “When billions of dollars of taxpayer money was spent to help airlines stay afloat, the least airlines can do is give struggling New Mexicans and Americans their money back for cancelled trips.”  

“I am proud to cosponsor this legislation to uphold consumer protections and ensure that travelers receive a full cash refund for cancelled airline tickets during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Heinrich. “I will keep fighting to put these dollars back in the pockets of hard-working New Mexicans and minimize financial uncertainties during what has become the greatest public health crisis of our generation.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

The Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act would:

  • Require major airlines and third-party ticket sellers to offer full cash refunds for all cancelled tickets during the coronavirus pandemic, no matter whether the airlinecanceled the overall flight or the passenger canceled their individual ticket
  • Permit airlines and third-party ticket sellers to offer travel vouchers as an alternative to cash refunds, as long as that voucher is valid indefinitely and the offer includes clear and conspicuous notice of the flyer’s right to a cash refund
  • Allow airlines to pay for cash refunds with any emergency money made available by Congress, except for the CARES Act grants designated for supporting worker payroll expenses and employee benefits
  • Establish that the new right is retroactive to any flight on or after March 1, 2020, so that passengers who previously received a travel voucher, but have not used it, can ask for a cash refund now
  • Mandate that cash refunds be available until 180 days after the end of the nationwide COVID-19 emergency declarations, which will give consumers six extra months of flexibility and peace of mind so they don’t have to travel until they truly feel safe flying again