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Traveling this Memorial Day weekend? Here are the new rules that give airline passengers more rights

Here are your new rights as airline passengers
Here are your new rights as airline passengers 02:09

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Pack your patience if you're headed to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this weekend, as air travel across the country is expected to be the busiest in nearly 20 years.

"The most important thing to know for travelers is if you thought last summer was a very full year, this year is going to be worse," CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg told WCCO News. "The airlines expected new planes to be able to expand their schedule and deal with increased passenger demand. They've got the demand. They just don't have the capacity right now."

With Southwest Airlines' 2022 Christmas weekend debacle still fresh in many travelers' memories, the U.S. Department of Transportation in April announced a series of new rules to give passengers more rights and flexibility.

The first rule mandates that airlines promptly refund customers when flights are meaningfully disrupted or delayed. Airlines will have to refund customers the full ticket prices, including airline-imposed fees, as well as government taxes and fees.

The new rule also defines what constitutes a "significantly changed" flight: a delay of at least three hours for a domestic flight, and at least six hours for an international flight. That was previously left to the discretion of the airline. 

Still, there's one major catch: There's no effective date for the rules to apply.

"Right now if your flight is delayed, unless it's canceled, you don't have many rights in terms of getting your money back," Greenberg added. "It has to be canceled by the airline. Not you. If you cancel the flight, you're just going to get a credit. You're not going to get your money back."

Still, that doesn't mean travelers are powerless.

"If it's under the airline's control, they're missing a crew member or having a maintenance issue or their other flight was late for reasons other than weather, then it's on them," Greenberg explained. "Save all of your receipts. Southwest Airlines stepped up and paid even for babysitters, dog sitters, childcare, hotel rooms, food, alternate forms of transportation."

Here are some other important tips:

  • Check your flight status before you leave for the airport
  • Make sure there's a spot for you to park
  • Look at the security wait times

If a flight is canceled for any reason, you can cancel the ticket and get a refund. If you want to keep flying, call the airline or book online instead of waiting in line. 

Your credit card might also be a good resource for travel issues.

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