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New legislation would make refunds mandatory for canceled flights

New legislation would make refunds mandatory for canceled flights
Posted at 3:32 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 10:12:09-04

As America continues to rebound, the calls for airlines to do what's right and issue cash refunds for canceled flights are intensifying.

Wednesday, Consumer Reports, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, petition leaders and several senators introduced legislation to make refunds mandatory. That was after more than 250,000 people signed petitions.

These advocacy groups have been hearing from thousands of Americans who can't get their money back.

“The airlines are arguing that one, they don’t have to, and two, they themselves are low on cash,” said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Fairness at Consumer Reports. “They got $50 billion from the federal government, but no one’s flying right now. They have no money coming in. We can see their argument but at the same time, people's hard-earned money that they need should not be the thing that's holding up the airlines right now.”

The Department of Transportation put out new guidance on airline ticket refunds after being flooded with complaints – more than 25,000 in a matter of months. However, the guidance stopped short of requiring refunds.

“Legally, all they're required to do is focus on those instances where the airline canceled, which makes sense in a normal situation,” said Laitin. “If you choose to change your flight, then you should abide by those rules, but we are in a different time.”

Americans like Paul Miller and his family have more than $1,600 tied up in Delta tickets because they didn't fly to a festival canceled in March. In fact, Miller almost wasn't even able to cancel the flight. He says he couldn't get through to customer service and got one phone call back at 4 a.m. over a period of two weeks.

“So, I actually went down to the Salt Lake City airport and talked to the ticketing agent and she was able to cancel our flights,” said Miller.

Miller pointed out he had no problem getting cash refunds for his rental car and hotel that he booked for the same trip.

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Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.