Call for Action: How to avoid canceled flight fees

DEFOREST, Wis. — If you had to cancel vacation plans because of the pandemic, you’re not alone – it’s cost Americans millions of dollars over the last year and a half.

Consumer complaints about canceled flights have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and lawmakers estimate about $10 billion was lost in canceled flights and outstanding credits. Steve Houghton from DeForest is one of those thousands of complaints after he lost $15,000 in flights for a canceled trip to Hawaii for his daughter, grandkids and their friends. He called for action to get that money back.

“I’m on a fixed income now, being retired,” he told us. “I hate to lose that amount of money.”
Call for Action wants to help you avoid losing out on money spent on your canceled vacation. Here’s what’s being done at the federal level to advocate for travelers:

  • Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a reminder to airlines that they must offer refunds or vouchers for future travel.
  • Last month, two U.S. senators sent a letter to 10 airlines, asking them to commit to cash refunds for any tickets that were canceled during the pandemic. A similar bill was introduced last year by Senate Democrats but no action has been taken on it.

We asked Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Transportation and Consumer Protection what’s currently required by law.

“The law is pretty clear: if the initiation of the cancelation is from the airline, you are entitled to a full refund for that canceled flight,” said Lara Sutherlin, administrator for the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection.

DATCP also has some advice for travelers before they buy their tickets: use a credit card and buy travel insurance, both offering extra protection.