EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Robert Almeida was looking forward to his sister’s wedding in Portugal in 2020, but then the pandemic forced airlines to shut down for some time.

Like many, he was forced to rebook his flight.

“They gave me a voucher to buy more tickets for the following August,” Almeida said.

Almeida purchased new tickets with the voucher, but the wedding was once again put on hold.

He tells 12 News that he’s been trying to get his money back ever since, but he keeps getting the run around from the travel agency and the airline.

The lack of refund forced him to make a tough financial decision.

“I missed my sister’s wedding this weekend,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Department (USDOT) has introduced a proposal to protect travelers like Almeida.

The USDOT, has required airlines and ticket agents to give travelers refunds of airlines cancel or significantly change their flights. The proposal is aiming to define specific situations as to when a consumer can get their money back.

Those significant changes would include: 

  • Changes that affect the departure and/or arrival times by three hours or more for a domestic flight or six hours or more for an international flight;
  • Changes to the departure or arrival airport;
  • Changes that increase the number of connections in the itinerary; and
  • Changes to the type of aircraft flown if it causes a significant downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities available onboard the flight.

If another incident happens, such a government ban on travel, the proposal makes sure flyers will receive credits or vouchers, just like they did during the pandemic.

The Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee is hosting a virtual public meeting that is open to public comment on Aug. 22.