New DOT Refund Rules Fall Short, Leaving US Behind Europe & Canada in Passenger Rights

You can use materials contained on this page provided that you refer to AirAdvisor.

New US DOT Airline Refund Rules: Industry Experts Weight In

In a recent announcement by the Department of Transportation (DOT), new regulations will now require airlines to issue automatic refunds for passengers affected by significant delays or cancellations. Despite these advancements, AirAdvisor, a leader in airline compensation advocacy, highlights significant gaps in accountability and enforcement that may leave consumers wondering about the efficacy of these rules.

Under the new DOT rules, not only must airlines automatically refund passengers, but they must also disclose all fees transparently. However, without clear enforcement mechanisms or specified penalties, these rules lack the teeth needed to ensure compliance.

Consumer Advocate Christopher Elliott expressed concern about the enforcement of these new regulations. 

"Rules are meaningless without enforcement," Elliott explains. "The Department of Transportation has gone months without an enforcement order. It’s one of the longest stretches without a single enforcement order."

He added: "Imagine if the highway patrol stopped writing speeding tickets for more than four months," said Elliott. "This may be one of the reasons the airline industry is taking these new rules in stride. They’re probably not that worried about enforcement."

Throughout 2023 and 2024, AirAdvisor filed nearly 300 complaints as a test with the DOT against various airlines for ignoring passenger rights, only to see little to no action taken by the agency. For instance, cases against major airlines like Air Canada, Lufthansa, RyanAir, and EasyJet saw minimal responses, underscoring a systemic issue of non-enforcement.

This pattern of inaction stands in stark contrast to regions like the EU, UK, and Canada, where passenger rights are vigorously protected and enforced. In these regions, not only are refunds issued, but additional compensation for delays is mandated—a major difference to the DOT's current framework.

Moreover, the enforcement record for the DOT pales in comparison to the proactive measures seen in other parts of the world. Christopher Elliott, a renowned consumer advocate, expresses concern, stating, "The absence of enforcement by the DOT is akin to having no speed limits enforced for months. It’s no wonder the airline industry isn’t taking these new rules seriously."

The recent fines imposed on Southwest Airlines for their 2022 holiday season meltdown, amounting to $140 million, highlight the potential for enforcement but also reveal the limitations when airlines negotiate down penalties. "This example shows that even when penalties are issued, the follow-through is lacking," Elliott added.

AirAdvisor urges the DOT to adopt more robust enforcement strategies and clear penalties for non-compliance. Without these, U.S. passengers will continue to lag behind their international counterparts in terms of rights and protections.



for press

We'll help you get compensation for last 3 years, if your flight was delayed, cancelled or if you were denied boarding.

Check Compensation

this takes few minutes

4.6 out of 5
"Excellent" - 
14860 reviews