Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey says that airlines have made about $10 billion by pocketing the money from cancelled flights.
Senate Democrats are putting together a plan that would require airlines to offer full cash refunds to passengers whose flights were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to The Associated Press, the policy, if approved, would require carriers to refund passengers in any instance of cancelation. That would cover customers whose flights were canceled by their airline, as well as people who simply chose not to fly due.
Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), said it is critically important that airlines offer cash refunds.
“At a time when families are struggling to pay for food, for housing, for prescriptions, it’s absolutely unconscionable that the airlines won’t return this money to consumers,” Markey said.
As LegalReader reported before, Markey has been critical of a prevalent practice: airlines offering consumers expiring credit in place of cash. To prevent that from happening—and to protect people who canceled flights to comply with shelter-in-place orders—Markey and four other Democratic senators have pledged to include refund provisions in any further coronavirus relief packages.
Markey has also sponsored a bill, called “Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations Act of 2020,” that includes more general measures. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).
Markey and his allies say, in total, that airlines have pocketed over $10 billion by holding onto consumers’ funds from canceled flights. Their priority, it seems, is helping passengers who canceled tickets to stay safe from coronavirus.
Interestingly, Sen. Markey says budget airlines, like Spirit and Allegiant, have been more receptive to the proposal than their full-service counterparts.
“Unfortunately, it is very clear that most airline [sic] won’t do the right thing on their own,” Markey said in a statement, claiming companies are now “profiting on the back of American consumers.”
“Returning this money back to consumers,” Markey said, “would be a significant stimulus to the public.”
Markey said he still plans to include provisions in the next government stimulus package that would guarantee airline refunds to anyone who requests them.
“We cannot continue to bail out big business while only giving scraps to individuals and families in need,” Markey said.
And Markey has taken particular issue with airlines: in many cases, passengers who are entitled to refunds under ordinary circumstances have been waiting weeks, even months, to get their money back.
“It’s time for us to play hardball with the industry because the industry is playing hardball with consumers, with passengers, with families that need the money desperately, that they’ve given over to the airlines for a flight that many of these families will never take,” Markey said.