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Adam Minter

Airlines Keep Gouging Passengers. Regulate Them.

Germany is considering a rule to let passengers pay their fares at check-in. US carriers who are stiffing passengers on refunds should be paying attention.

Get in line for a refund. 

Get in line for a refund. 

Photographer: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

US-based airlines canceled more than 100,000 flights between January and July, surpassing the number of cancellations that took place during the same period in pre-Covid 2019. The impact on passengers is significant. Not only must they find alternative transportation; they must also obtain a refund for their advance purchases.

That's harder than it should be. In fact, difficulty obtaining a refund has been far and away the top consumer complaint to the Department of Transportation since the beginning of the pandemic, though flight problems (collectively, flight cancellations, delays and misconnections) passed it in June, as the chart below indicates.  Policy makers in the US are looking at ways to address these problems with regulations requiring speedier refunds by airlines.