Senators demand airlines refund passengers for canceled flights as travelers become more frustrated

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Pressure is mounting for airlines to give money back to customers forced to cancel their flight due to the coronavirus.

Travelers have expressed increased frustration about their inability to get refunds after canceling flights to comply with the stay at home order. They're now getting some influential support.

Michele Parisi looks back fondly on her 25 years of marriage. One of their most memorable trips was to Florence. They decided to return there to celebrate their silver anniversary.

They booked their flight on Swiss International Airlines. Then the pandemic happened and those plans came crashing down.

"My husband realized our plans might be disrupted," said Parisi.

They decided to reschedule the trip to October. They easily changed both their hotel reservations and train tickets. Swiss Air, however, refused to make changes.

"We wanted to take the trip. So we were just going to try to rebook it and they would not accommodate that at all," Parisi said.

Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar recently wrote letters to the CEOs of 11 airlines asking the companies to refund all impacted customers.

They pointed to the recent $25 billion bailout of the industry and called the refunds a "moral responsibility."

Just this week, the US Department of Transportation ordered both domestic and foreign airlines to make prompt refunds to passengers for flights it cancels or that have had significant schedule changes.

The airline trade group Airlines 4 America told 7 On Your Side its industry expects revenues this year to plummet $252 billion, but remains committed to being responsive to travelers' needs.

Kit Yarrow is Professor Emerita in marketing at Golden Gate University. She believes the airlines have no choice but to offer refunds.

Yarrow says the pandemic will pass, but the lasting images from it will not.

The Parisis ended up canceling their flight thinking they would have to eat the cost of the ticket. 7 On Your Side contacted Swiss International Airlines on their behalf.

The next day, the airline changed its policy company wide. It wrote: "Considering that you canceled your tickets only one day before the introduction of this new policy, we exceptionally decided to fully reimburse your tickets."

The Parisis hope to take a delayed trip to celebrate their 25th anniversary in the hopefully not-so-distant future.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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