Airlines ordered to 'promptly' refund customers for trips canceled or changed due to coronavirus

The airline industry has been directed to offer refunds to customers whose flights have been canceled or drastically rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, the Department of Transportation issued a notice to both foreign and domestic air carriers, requiring prompt refunds on trips that were significantly altered because of the outbreak.

The DOT was acting on an increasing number of complaints and inquiries from passengers, many who were left with non-refundable tickets, federal transportation officials said.

Travelers complained that simply receiving vouchers or credits for their canceled or rescheduled flights were not suitable options given the unknown and uncertain future brought by the pandemic.

Transportation officials said airlines have had to offer refunds in the past, when travel has been significantly disrupted, like in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"The longstanding obligation of carriers to provide refunds for flights that carriers cancel or significantly delay does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control," the DOT said. 

Air customers seeking refunds can get for more information on the Department of Transportation website here.