Senate Democrats Urge Airlines to Issue Cash Refunds Amid Pandemic

April 1, 2020 Updated: April 1, 2020

Top democratic senators demanded domestic airlines give Americans cash reimbursements for all cancelled flights caused by the CCP virus pandemic, especially those citizens who were stranded abroad due to the travel bans.

Many airlines have temporarily waived cancellation fees and issued credit for future flights, which often have a three-month window. In a letter (pdf) sent Monday to 11 airline CEO’s, the lawmakers argued that travel vouchers were useless amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus crisis and that the companies should instead issue cash refunds.

“Unfortunately, these travel vouchers do the public little good in this time of emergency, when Americans need money now to pay for basic necessities,” wrote Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), among others. “We urge you to offer cash refunds for flight cancellations so that Americans can better weather this crisis.”

They argued that with the vast majority of the U.S. states under stay-at-home orders, most people who have travel vouchers will likely not use them in the foreseeable future.

virus travel airport
Passengers wear masks as they arrive at Dulles International airport in Dulles, Virginia, on March 17, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

“It would be unacceptable to us for your company to hold onto travelers’ payments for canceled flights instead of refunding them, especially in light of the $25 billion bailout that the airline industry just received from Congress,” the senators wrote.

The letters were sent to the CEO’s of Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit, Sun Country Airlines, and United Airlines.

The lawmakers urged the airlines to make a commitment to give cash refunds for flights passengers had to cancel because of the pandemic or issue travel vouchers that don’t expire. They also praised the airlines for assisting in repatriating Americans stranded overseas and called on the companies to continue working with the State Department in this effort but criticized them for charging stranded passengers’ large amounts of money to fly back home.

“Many Americans have also experienced expensive flight cancellations by commercial airlines—without reimbursement—as they sought to return to the United States from countries that implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 crisis.”

“However, prices for flight tickets back to the United States have been inconsistent and often exorbitantly expensive, forcing Americans to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, simply to comply with national travel restrictions and State Department guidance,” the letter continued.

chicago travelers
Travelers wear protective mask as they walk through in terminal 5 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on March 1, 2020. (Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo)

American Airlines told the Epoch Times in an email that flights customers cancel during the pandemic will receive a credit or voucher but if American Airlines cancels a flight, passengers will be given a full refund back to the original form of payment.

Airlines have taken a hit because of the travel restrictions enacted by many countries around the world including the United States. Passenger flights are said to be running at 10 to 20 percent capacity as countries and cities close down and demand drops as people are choosing not to get on an airplane where germs can circulate.