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Airlines must pay you back for flight cancellations, major delays. How much will you get under new rule?

(NEXSTAR) – Airlines will soon be required to pay you back if they cancel your flight, delay you, make major changes to the itinerary, or don’t deliver your checked bags on time.

The change was made official Wednesday when the Department of Transportation issued a final rule. “Passengers deserve to get their money back when an airline owes them — without headaches or haggling,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a written announcement of the new standards.

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The refunds will need to be offered in cash or straight back to your form of payment — vouchers don’t count. Airlines will also be required to issue the refunds quickly, and “without passengers having to explicitly request them or jump through hoops,” according to the DOT guidance.


Here’s what you’re entitled to under the new rule.

If your flight is canceled…

If your flight is canceled, you’ll be entitled to a full refund. If you’d rather be rebooked to your destination, you can also choose to accept another flight, travel credit or alternative transportation offered by the airline.

It doesn’t make a difference if the flight was canceled due to technical issues, weather, or anything else. Buttigieg told CNN the requirement applies “when your flight is canceled for any reason.”

If your flight is delayed or changed…

The new rule also requires airlines to offer refunds when a flight itinerary is “significantly changed.” That means you can opt to get your money back if your departure or arrival time is changed by 3 hours or more on domestic flights, or 6 hours on international flights.

The same goes for situations in which: your departure or arrival airport is changed; there’s a connection added to your itinerary; you’re bumped down to a lower class; or if a new flight or airport is less suited to accommodate your disability.

As is the case with canceled flights, passengers are entitled to the refund only if “they do not accept alternative transportation or travel credits offered.”

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If you have problems with baggage, Wi-Fi or other services…

If you paid to check bags, but they are significantly delayed, you’ll be entitled to a refund for the baggage fee.

“Passengers who file a mishandled baggage report will be entitled to a refund of their checked bag fee if it is not delivered within 12 hours of their domestic flight arriving at the gate, or 15-30 hours of their international flight arriving at the gate, depending on the length of the flight,” according to the DOT.

If you pay for extras on board — like Wi-Fi, a seat assignment, or inflight entertainment — and the airline doesn’t deliver what you paid for, you’ll be able to get your money back too.

When will the rules take effect?

The changes will phase in over the next 6 to 12 months, the DOT says. Travelers can learn more about their rights on the agency’s website.

More changes to transparency

The Transportation Department issued a separate rule requiring airlines and ticket agents to disclose upfront what they charge for checked and carry-on bags and canceling or changing a reservation. On airline websites, the fees must be shown the first time customers see a price and schedule.

The rule will also oblige airlines to tell passengers they have a guaranteed seat they are not required to pay extra for, although it does not bar airlines from charging people to choose specific seats. Many airlines now charge extra for certain spots, including exit-row seats and those near the front of the cabin.

The agency said the rule will save consumers more than $500 million per year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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