Airlines sitting on $10-billion of credit that belongs to consumers

Travel

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — More than three million are expected to fly this Fourth of July holiday weekend. If you’re sitting on a plane voucher or ticket credit — pay attention.

There’s a push to get the airlines to honor COVID-19 pandemic purchases.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal says the airline industry is set to cancel billions in unused flight credits. He says many pandemic-related vouchers are expiring soon. “The airlines are sitting on $10 billion worth of credit that belongs to the consumers.”

Laurel Benjamin just flew in from Florida. She told News 8 Friday she is visiting Connecticut for the holiday. And while she isn’t sitting on soon-to-expire airline credits, she says customers who are should be able to use them. “This is not something that came on as a result of travelers therefore it is something if a traveler has a voucher they should take it.”

Blumenthal has called on the Federal Department of Transportation to require airlines to offer cash refunds and extend deadlines indefinitely so customers don’t lose money.

“If they are deceptive or unfair or misleading – which is exactly what they’re doing here – the Secretary of Transportation can force them to do the right thing,” added Blumenthal.

He and one of his colleagues have written to Secretary Pete Buttegieg asking him to hold public hearings.

“Not everyone is ready to travel, some people’s financial situation, health situation has changed and they’re not able to travel,” says Valerie French.

She owns a travel agency in Newington called French’s Worldwide Travel and says she’s had 200-cancellations.

Which means vouchers and money could be grounded without federal action.

Blumenthal says the industry was bailed out to the tune of $50-billion. And now they owe loyal customers.

French, who is also the CT Chapter President of the American Society of Travel Advisors, fears, “many of these credits will be lost and that’s our money that’s our people’s money.”

News 8 reached out to Airlines for America, a trade group representing some of the most popular carriers. We haven’t heard back.

Meantime, French’s advice is to check the expiration date of your voucher and get online. “They should contact their travel agent if they have one. And they can also contact the airline through their customer service. But really the only way to do that is online; you can’t even reach anyone on the phone anymore, unfortunately.”

She also says your best bet is to book a trip. That way the voucher for the credit will already be accounted for and it won’t be stranded.

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