Airlines May Finally Have to Refund You if Their Wi-Fi Doesn't Work

Justice for those who pay $10 for in-flight connections.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
The inside of an empty commercial airliner, three blue seats on either side of the aisle.

The US Department of Transportation has proposed a new rule that would see flight passengers finally able to get refunds for services they paid for but didn't receive -- like if the onboard Wi-Fi is busted. 

It comes as part of a new set of rules proposed by the Biden administration that would see airlines disclose "surprise fees" upfront. Under the proposal, the first time airlines display their flight price to potential customers, they'd also have to disclose fees for baggage, changes, cancellations and sitting with your children. 

"Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket," said US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which will help travelers make informed decisions and save money." 

Another proposed rule would require airlines to:

  • "Proactively inform passengers that they have a right to receive a refund" when their flight is cancelled or significantly changed; 
  • Provide non-expiring flight credits when people contract COVID-19 or another illness and cannot travel;
  • Provide refunds instead of flight credits for people who can't travel due to COVID-19 if the airline receives "significant government assistance related to a pandemic." 

The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is also currently taking action against 10 airlines for "extreme delays in providing refunds for flights the airlines canceled or significantly changed."