Sun, 20 Jun 2021

WASHINGTON D.C.: Amid mounting criticism from passengers and lawmakers over the handling of refunds for flight cancelations during the pandemic, head of industry trade group Airlines for America Nicholas Calio said eleven U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020.

Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal had asked airlines to issue cash refunds, regardless of whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

Calio, in a letter to lawmakers, admitted that many carriers encouraged customers to accept vouchers for future travel, instead of cash, but it was done to prevent potential bankruptcy declarations.

"The facts clearly show that U.S. airlines have maintained a steadfast commitment to the traveling public over the course of the pandemic and routinely issued refunds in accordance with all federal laws and regulations," Calio wrote in a letter to the two senators.

Calio said the cash refunds, which accounted for about 20 percent of airline revenues last year, came on top of billions of dollars of travel credits that are now being used "at a rapid clip" to book new flights.

The redemption of vouchers currently accounts for 10 to 15 percent of carriers' monthly ticket sales and is expected to increase in coming months as the pandemic winds down and markets and venues reopen, Calio said in the letter.

The forecasted upcoming summer travel surge is expected to help airlines return to positive cash flows, after record losses last year.

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