Is your flight canceled? How to get your money back

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 1:29 PM EDT

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally published on May 12, 2020.

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Airports are empty and flights are canceled. So, how do you get your money back?

“Pursue the refund,” said Terry Gerken.

Gerken is president of OHT Travel Group in Toledo, Ohio. He knows travelers’ rights. If the airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to a refund.

“You’ve got to stay on top of knowing whether or not your flight was canceled. The only way you can do that, if you didn’t book through a travel agent, is to continuously check with the airlines,” said Gerken.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is reporting a big increase in complaints, and many are from people having a difficult time getting their refund.

In a typical month, DOT says it receives about 1,500 complaints. In March, that number jumped to 5,000. In April, it reached 20,000.

Gray Television Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao how the agency is responding to frustrated travelers.

“We actually work with individual passengers on resolving their individual disputes with the airline companies. And I, myself, have spoken with several airline CEOs asking them to pay attention to the whole issue of refunds,” said Chao.

Chao tells us the DOT is issuing an enforcement notice to remind airlines they must offer passengers the option of a refund when the airline cancels their flight.

“We’re asking the airlines to be more flexible, more understanding, or accommodating of passengers who may be going through a difficult time in their lives as well,” she said.

Airlines for America lobbies for large airlines like American, Delta, and United. They say, “Carriers are working with each and every customer to address their circumstances and situation. We follow and comply with all federal laws and regulations on this matter. Accordingly, when carriers cancel a flight a refund is offered.”

Airlines for America says information about individual carriers’ policies can be found at If you need to file a complaint with the DOT, you can do so here.

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