President Biden’s Misleading Airline Tweet: Separating Fact from Fiction

President Biden sent out an odd tweet about airline consumer protections on Wednesday. He claims that airlines did not used to provide refunds when they cancelled flights, but thanks to his administration they do now. That just is not true.

Early in the pandemic United and JetBlue were bad actors, refusing refunds, but the Department of Transportation (in the last administration!) let them know this was unacceptable and they fell into line. American and Delta were much more honest with customer refunds. This was three and a half years ago in any case.

Some foreign carriers, like TAP Air Portugal and Air Canada, remained bad actors – but DOT investigations begun during the last administration addressed this.

The Biden administration has proposed a new rule requiring refunds for significant schedule changes and cancellations that has not been finalized and that is less generous than what most airlines already provide, for instance requiring refunds for 3 hour schedule changes while United and Delta give refunds for smaller changes. (American still has not reverted to its pre-pamdemic schedule change policy and requires a four hour change for a refund.)

There are several other consumer-related initiatives from the Biden administration under Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation, which either haven’t actually happened or haven’t made a significant difference.

  • President Biden proposed requiring cash compensation to passengers for controllable flight delays and cancellations. But his administration intentionally did not put forth a regulation, instead delaying a process so that it only might happen if he gets re-elected. He’s campaigning on this, not doing it.

  • The DOT did shame airlines by comparing their policies for providing hotels and meals during controllable delays, and for putting passengers up in hotel rooms when stranding them overnight.

    In this dashboard the nuance of airline policies, which haven’t actually changed much, gets lost. So while each has a different standard for what they’ll provide, they largely look alike with a check mark. So this is marginally beneficial to passengers, but hasn’t been revolutionary.

  • DOT has proposed a rule for greater airline fee transparency that doesn’t seem to address an actual problem and in some cases hands more power to airlines rather than benefiting consumers. This rule has not been finalized. Meanwhile, the Biden administration hasn’t addressed the scammiest fees in travel at all.

To be fair, there are limits to what the Biden administration can do administratively. One thing that the Supreme Court has made clear over and over in recent years is that you need actual laws passed by Congress to substantially change government policy. In most cases, legislation hasn’t been introduced. (While Congress does still spend money, more before we wound up with divided government a year ago, it rarely legislates.)

Airlines certainly almost never charged a fee to rebook passengers when their flights were delayed or cancelled. That claim is simply not true.

I attribute this tweet to an overzealous staffer who does not understand air travel. President Biden is not sitting around with his iPhone composing campaign-related tweets. That is staffed out. And in this case, it was done badly – making claims that aren’t true.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why on earth is this country putting up with geriatric politicians? One bit of stupid after the other. Get rid of ’em all at age 65; perhaps we can stop our slide into third-world status.

  2. Every word that Biden spews is a blatant lie, not sure why his handlers’ commentary on the airline industry would be assumed to be different

  3. That tweet doesn’t say airlines didn’t provide refunds. It says “almost none would guarantee anything”. And prior to the changing of many policies in response to COVID, that’s exactly true. But I’m here more to watch the useful idiot heads explode saying Biden is senile and also thinking he is sitting there firing out tweets. This senile President who is almost certainly incapable of tweeting anything is too busy to sit on the toilet all day and night tweeting inane garbage like the last useless lump dullard.

  4. Sleepy Joe and Mayor Pete have been a disaster. Biden is losing support from many of his key constituencies including young people and minority voters. Granted they may not vote for the Republican candidate (although more indicate they will than in 2020) but if they don’t vote at all that spells trouble for Biden. Now there are sizable Muslim voters in key swing states that aren’t happy with him. He is frankly grasping at straws trying to look better and somehow get people to support him.

    Frankly this type of action is sad and pathetic but what do you expect when a vast majority of even Democratic votes really don’t want him to run for reelection.

  5. Airlines started paying refunds only AFTER Trump was voted out of office.

    Trump has been pretty clear that he wants less protections for consumer/voters and airlines were hoping not to pay out a dime (deregulation quite literally means that airlines can change their CoC whenever they want, even retroactively).

  6. Airlines started paying refunds only AFTER the last administration was voted out of office. The ora nge leader has been pretty clear that he wants less protections for consumer/voters and airlines were hoping not to pay out a dime (deregulation quite literally means that airlines can change their CoC whenever they want, even retroactively).

  7. Biden isn’t too old. He is both too stupid and suffering from dementia. The guy never was birght, so it’s not age.

  8. What do you expect from a so called president and his inept incompetent administration that almost lies about everything and is clueless!!

  9. Your article is the misleading one. We never got the refunds and rebooking tickets without problems ($$) before. In the old days airlines had offices away from airports. Once that was done with, you can spend hours on the phone. Time = miney too. The only time I received anything without a hassle( following up with calls n emails) was if I gave up my seat for a later flight, and even there they tried to give you the least amount due if you did not know what was allowed.
    As for the political mentions- that’s just the problem with us. Nasty and devisive. Nothing constructive. I’ve been traveling (on my own) when I was five, for nearly 65yrs. now. Talk about the change in passengers!

  10. Jake – you must be a dyed in the wool Democrat not to see this president has been a total disaster to the US. But your post is most definitely NOT true. You need to check real facts, not some piece or opinion someone might have written.

  11. Gosh a President saying something that is not true. Shocker! Not like the last guy, who lied about nearly everything and actually made the lies himself.

  12. @Gary don’t rewrite history. Airlines were fined a (mere) $7.5m for withholding $600b from consumers and this was done after the deregulation administration was voted out of office. If you read the individual consent orders, a whole.lot.of these refunds were paid in 2021 and some even in 2022.,canceled%20or%20significantly%20changed%20flight.

  13. Come on Gary. Don’t try to do a tRUMP on us by insinuating Joe B. He is smarter and a lot sharper than the twice-impeached and disgraced lord of the swamps.

  14. I don’t think it’s really Biden running the show but someone else in the administration, all in the name of “Biden”. Biden has no idea what he’s talking about whether it’s about airlines or whatever. If you watch any of this conferences…etc, it makes no sense whatsoever. He clearly has early dementia by the way he shuffles his feet, his gait, his stare, his speech…etc.

  15. @Jake – you are mixing up different things here.

    – Some US airlines were refusing to provide refunds in March – May 2020
    – DOT got on those airlines, and they processed refunds
    – Some foreign carriers were more recalcitrant
    – DOT eventually got most of those refunds and imposed fines during the next administration

    There was no change in stance at DOT on this issue with the new administration. Biden DOT fines were large by historical standards but still quite small. And largely aimed at non-US carriers like Air Canada.

    The process takes a long time to get to a fine, usually via settlement, but that is wholly different from when refunds were made – and American and Delta were both honorable with those from the get-go.

  16. Jake, ChadM, and Afraidtexan are idiots who also think Biden walks on water. Reality is he’s the stupidest president of modern times. Any comparison to Trump is ludicrous however there should be an age limit for presidency. It’s a shame it took a crook like Biden to have to consider that.

  17. Jake is confused as usual. He still thinks Trump is the president. This post is about the current administration of which Biden is the president. Also as a previous president said “the buck stops here”. Biden is ultimately responsible for the press put out by his campaign.

  18. @jsn55 “Get rid of ’em all at age 65…” absolutely YES!

    Why GenX and the Millennials can’t get enough voters together to vote in their own generation is beyond me. We know they don’t like us Boomers-and-older (and i don’t blame them!), but apparently they don’t have the cajones to write their own story. Geez!

  19. This is just one small lie for the day in an administration that lies flagrantly everyday. But tell enough lies and some people believe each one and it ends up being a lot of people are totally clueless as to the evil of this administration.

  20. Garsh, don’t wake the President up. Life’s better when he’s asleep at the wheel. I mean, these nonsense & false tweets stand up to MEAN tweets, right?

    Jake – sadly you realize only ONE US airline got fined. The others argued, falsely, about how to handle refunds and thinking their own contract of carriage/tariff applied, despite the regulations of the US DOT. I know a handful of those airlines denied refunds because the merchant of record (merchant account) charged in local currency thru their regular account, and NOT one based in the USA, so they argued that US DOT rules don’t apply. Even Air Canada tried that one. What the DOT *did* do was make the regulation MORE CLEAR for non-US based entities, and this is also one reason why you can’t buy many foreign airline tickets in the US (or you have to go thru a travel agency).

    I want to say the DOT came out with this rule under the Bush Administration after 9/11. Refunds were only optional up to that point, I believe. And we had the same issues after 9/11 we had during COVID with mass flight cancellations. Anyone else here remember that, 22 years ago?

  21. Biden is unelectable in a re-match against Trump. Unfortunately, he’s probably unelectable as an incumbent President even against generic Republicans. Despite the economic strength in the face of inflation coming off the Trump pandemic presidency, he’s probably lost Michigan and is at risk of losing even other Great Lake states previously won by him without picking up Florida and/or Texas. Biden’s buddy buddy relationship with Netanyahu is not doing Biden any great favors in purple and even smaller blue states, and his age is an issue with the public too.

  22. I was subject to a lot of flight cancellations in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, but the US legacy majors did reroute me without charge and even do it in generously ways. I didn’t need many if any refunds, but I did need a lot of rebooking and rerouting on already ticketed bookings in the last two quarters of 2001. I don’t recall the US airlines squatting on lots of my money at that point, but maybe they sat on some of it against my wishes.

  23. This kind of turned into a Trump rally, which is usually the case when the author goes political.

  24. The sad part of all this is that he doesn’t actually write any of these social media posts. Heck, I doubt he’d know how but that’s not unusual for politicians. The second sad part of this is that it’s propaganda that is intentionally not accurate (a lie). So if you do the math his handlers put false information out and do it on a regular basis AND many people believe it or they wouldn’t have voted for him in the first place.

  25. jns55. I agree with you in principle. However, I suspect that most professional people do not have cognitive disabilities until after age 65 . . . a “use it or lose it thing.” Biden lost it many years ago as many of those in Congress have.
    DaninMCI. Agree. Biden personally posting on social media? At his age I just don’t see that happening and not just because he may mistake the TV remote for his phone.
    But back to topic, I’ve never encountered issues with refunds, even when traveling on a non-rev tickets. Well, maybe once on Delta but a phone call straightened that out.
    What gets me is that I suspect airlines keep cookies of your visits to their website and adjust the fares according to your price checking visits . . . always more the second or third time I click. Consequently I’ve started using DuckDuckGo. Tell me I’m wrong.

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