March 04, 2020

Senators Warren, Markey Urge Department of Transportation to Suspend All Airline Ticket Cancellation and Change Fees During Coronavirus Outbreak

Travelers should not be exposed to a financial penalty for trying to protect themselves or their families

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the agency to require all airlines to suspend their ticket change and cancellation fees in light of the spreading coronavirus. Although some domestic airlines have temporarily waived select fees because of the coronavirus, inconsistencies in companies’ policies could leave many individuals facing risk or paying excessive fees.

“The DOT is uniquely empowered to act upon claims of anti-consumer conduct in the transportation industry, and should not rely on voluntary business commitments that provide only patchwork relief,” the Massachusetts senators wrote in their letter to Secretary Elaine L Chao. “Allowing any airline to charge exorbitant fees for ticket changes or cancellations during the coronavirus outbreak is beyond unfair. That’s why the DOT must act without delay.”

The coronavirus has created substantial anxiety and uncertainty around airline travel and has already led many companies and individuals to change their travel plans. However, these fliers often face change or cancellation fees to the tune of $200 for domestic flights and $500 for international flights. While some domestic airlines have waived selected fees temporarily, each airline’s policies differ on whether both new and existing tickets are protected, how long fees are waived for, and what destinations are covered. The senators’ letter calls on the DOT to step in on behalf of all travelers and to stop airlines from charging these unfair fees for the duration of this public health emergency.