A New Law Could Force Airlines to Pay Passengers Back for Spotty Wifi and Other Unrendered Services

Did you pay to check luggage on a delayed flight? Buy in-flight wifi that you couldn't use? You may be in luck.

A New Law Could Force Airlines to Pay Passengers Back for Spotty Wifi and Other Unrendered Services
Rudy Dong

A few months back, I attempted to buy wifi on a United flight and subsequently spiraled upon the realization that I could not purchase an hour’s — or even the duration of my flight’s — worth of connectivity. My only option at that time was to purchase a monthly subscription … for $30. Because I’m a JetBlue loyalist (and not just because they offer free inflight wifi), I was not in need of a month’s worth of United wifi at the at time, but because I had work to do, I bit the bullet anyway. I spent the entirety of the ensuing three hours trying to connect to said wifi … to no avail.

It will come as a surprise to none that the $30 charge still went through before the plane touched down at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International.

Chances are that if you’ve flown any time in the past 16 or so months, this story resonates with you on some level. Regardless of what it was for, you’ve probably been subjected to some form of additional (and frankly, ridiculous) fees for services that were either not delivered or not made explicitly clear to you while booking. The good news is that, according to a new Forbes report by Dan Reed, it looks like we’re all about to have our (metaphorical) day in court.

According to Reed, the Biden Administration is currently in the process of laying out a new set of rules which will require airlines to begin issuing refunds for services paid for but not rendered, as well as for things like fees surrounding checked baggage on delayed flights — an idea that’s been floated on the floor of Congress for years without ever quite getting off the ground. It looks like that’s about to change.

Following the issuance of $46 billion in grants and an additional $22 billion in loans from the government during the pandemic, the mismanagement of COVID affairs by major airlines has apparently left a pretty bad taste in the mouths of not only consumers everywhere, but also members of both the House and Senate across party lines. With broad bipartisan support, it now seems likely that the Biden Administration’s proposed sanctions could soon be passed into law.

And while those new sanctions reportedly have nothing to do with the chaos surrounding COVID cancellations and rescheduling, as Reed puts it, “It’s unmistakably clear that airlines lost a ton of goodwill credit among members of Congress by stubbornly refusing to grant cash refunds to all people whose already-purchased trips were ruined by COVID-19’s appearance.”

So if you’re still waiting on a refund for any assorted airline services that were never delivered, there may be hope for you yet. And, of course, in the interim, there’s always JetBlue.


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