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Democratic bill would require cash refunds for all canceled airline tickets during pandemic

Democratic bill would require cash refunds for all canceled airline tickets during pandemic
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Democratic senators introduced legislation Wednesday requiring airlines refund billions of dollars to customers who canceled flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cash refunds from major airlines and third-party ticket sellers would be issued regardless of whether the airline canceled the flight or if the passenger backed out of their ticket, according to a summary of the bill introduced by Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey rips GOP for support of Amy Coney Barrett: Originalism 'just a fancy word for discrimination' Ocasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (Mass.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAll fracked up: Biden's Keystone State breakdown What do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Democrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination MORE (Conn.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg The painstaking, state-by-state fight to protect abortion access MORE (Calif.).

While airlines are already required to offer cash refunds for flights they cancel, air carriers are not under the same obligation for flights canceled by customers.

Airline activity has dropped off dramatically since March with the increased spread of the coronavirus and the majority of Americans under stay-at-home orders.

Department of Transportation figures showed that air travel was down 51 percent in March compared to the same month in 2019. It plunged 93 percent in the beginning of May, according to Airlines for America, a trade association for major North American airlines.

Senators backing the legislation conducted an earlier investigation that found major U.S. air carriers were sitting on approximately $10 billion in customer payments over canceled flights and only offered travel vouchers and credits toward future flights.

“Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing, and prescriptions, not temporary credits toward future travel,” Markey said in a statement Wednesday.

Congress provided up to $25 billion in relief for airlines as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed into law March 27. Portions of the coronavirus relief package were to be used for payroll grants for employees and low-interest loans and negotiated on an individual basis between the Treasury Department and U.S. airlines.

“In light of this pressing need, and an unprecedented multibillion-dollar bailout, it’s absolutely unconscionable that the airlines won’t give consumers their money back,” Markey said. “Airlines already have a moral responsibility to give cash refunds for all cancelled tickets during the coronavirus pandemic. My new legislation will give them a legal responsibility, too.”