What’s New in the Travel Industry? Impact of Biden-Harris Automatic Airline Refunds on Customer Experience

Published: June 5, 2024
A traveler hands her ticket to an airline attendant. Image caption reads: What’s New in the Travel Industry? Impact of Biden-Harris Automatic Airline Refunds & Customer Experience Solutions That Work.

On April 24, 2024, the U.S. Department of Tourism unveiled an exciting new regulation mandating automatic refunds for airline tickets and associated service fees, in line with the vision of the Biden-Harris Administration.

This regulation promises to revolutionize the refund process for eligible flight cancellations and significant schedule adjustments. It is aimed at delivering an unparalleled level of consumer protection and promoting the overall customer experience within the travel industry.

While travelers are sure to cheer for this game-changing initiative, you’re facing a wave of higher customer expectations and service standards. Airlines, travel agencies, and fellow travel service providers like yourself can shine by swiftly adapting procedures to meet the new gold standard of automatic refunds.

The main challenge ahead is an exciting one: rising to meet the sky-high expectations that travelers will now hold for your organization. Embracing adaptability and implementing customer experience solutions in response to these changes will not only ensure continued customer satisfaction but also position you at the forefront of industry innovation and compliance.

The Good: Biden-Harris Automatic Ticket Refunds Policy Promotes Customer Satisfaction Rates

Reduction in the Need for Customer-Initiated Refund Requests

Traditionally, your customers have had to navigate complex and frustrating procedures to get their money back. This means filling out forms, making multiple calls, and waiting for extended periods, all while dealing with the uncertainty of whether the refund would be processed correctly. 

With automatic refunds, your customers’ burden is lifted, ideally. Instead of requesting a refund, the system proactively processes refunds automatically when a flight is canceled or significantly delayed — a seamless approach that ensures your customers receive their money back stress-free.

Increased Customer Confidence and Loyalty

The numbers don’t lie. 

Loyal customers are invaluable assets — spending up to 67% more than new ones. Sales conversion rates are also significantly higher with loyal customers (60-70%) than new customers (5-10%).

But in the fickle travel industry, where delays and cancellations are inevitable, this can be hard to achieve. Maintaining their trust is an absolute must. Customers need reassurance that their interests are protected, even in the face of unexpected disruptions. In this regard, an effective refund process, especially one enhanced by automation, is a crucial component to fostering trust and building enduring customer loyalty. 

How Refunds Build Customer Loyalty

Refunds are often a litmus test for customer satisfaction and trust. When you handle refunds efficiently and transparently, you demonstrate a commitment to customer service that resonates with passengers. 

Let’s delve deeper into how refunds build customer loyalty.

  • Trust and Reliability: Offering automatic refunds is a sincere way for you to show how you value your customers’ time and money. This helps build trust, as passengers feel assured that their financial interests are protected in case of cancellations or significant delays.
  • Customer-Centric Approach: An efficient refund process signals a customer-centric approach, where the airline prioritizes your clients’ needs. This fosters a positive relationship, encouraging passengers to choose the same airline for future travel.
  • Transparency and Fairness: Clear and straightforward refund policies enhance the perception of fairness. When your clients know they will receive a refund automatically and without hassle, their confidence in your business grows.
  • Reduced Stress: Obtaining refunds can be stressful. By automating refunds, businesses alleviate this burden, making travel a more pleasant experience. Travelers who encounter fewer hassles are more likely to remain loyal to you.
A mini infographic lists impact of the Bidden-harris automatic airline refunds on customer experience.

Transformative Impact of Automatic Ticket Refunds Policy Across Travel Sectors


From heightened customer retention and positive word-of-mouth to better brand reputation and higher revenues, the long-term benefits of building customer confidence through effective refund policies will bode well for your airline.

  • Increased Customer Retention: Loyal customers are likelier to stick with you if you treat them fairly and efficiently. This translates into higher customer retention rates, reducing the cost and effort of attracting new customers.
  • Positive Word-of-Mouth: Satisfied customers often share their positive experiences with friends, family, and social media followers, enhancing your reputation and attracting new customers, further bolstering business growth.
  • Enhanced Brand Image: Elevating your customer service and efficient refund process will help you build a stronger brand image, differentiating you in a crowded market and making you a preferred choice for travelers.
  • Higher Revenue: Loyal customers not only return for repeat business but also tend to spend more on ancillary services such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, and in-flight purchases.

Tour Operators

Handling cancellations and refunds manually can be a logistical nightmare, involving extensive communication with airlines and customers. Automatic refunds simplify this process, reducing the administrative burden on you.

By ensuring your customers receive timely reimbursements for canceled flights, you can improve customer satisfaction and trust in your services.

Travel Insurance

Automatic refunds result in fewer disputes and claims for insurers, streamlining processes and reducing administrative costs associated with claim management. Increased efficiency enhances operational performance and improves customer experience, as quicker resolutions build trust and satisfaction.

With fewer resources tied up in claims management, you can focus on innovation and service improvement. Promoting the reliability and ease of the claims process helps you gain a competitive edge and attract more customers. The policy supports better financial stability and allows you to invest in new products and customer service enhancements, driving growth and strengthening your market position.


When travelers receive refunds for canceled flights, they often feel more secure and financially ready to rebook their trips, leading to higher occupancy rates and revenue for you.

The assurance of automatic refunds also encourages travelers to make future plans without fear of losing money, promoting a more stable flow of guests. This allows you to manage your operations better, plan for consistent occupancy, and invest in enhancing your services, ultimately creating a more positive experience for your guests.

Transportation Services

As a company offering ground transportation services, like car rentals and shuttle providers, you will experience a surge in business as travelers reschedule trips following refunds for canceled flights.

Furthermore, the confidence instilled by automatic refunds encourages travelers to plan new trips, knowing they won’t incur losses in case of flight cancellations. This increased trust translates into a more consistent need for your services, enabling you to optimize operations and deliver enhanced travel experiences to your clientele.

Travel Agencies

One key aspect that can greatly enhance your reputation is ensuring customers receive refunds promptly. When travelers know they can rely on you to handle refunds swiftly, they are more likely to return for future bookings and recommend your agency to others.

Moreover, the positive word-of-mouth generated by satisfied customers is invaluable. Happy customers are often eager to share their positive experiences with friends and family, leading to a steady stream of new clients and further bolstering your reputation and revenue.

You can also strategically leverage a prompt refund policy in your marketing strategies. Highlighting your commitment to customer satisfaction and reliable service can set you apart from competitors and attract discerning travelers seeking peace of mind. You can position yourself as a trusted partner in travel planning by emphasizing your dedication to promptly resolving issues and ensuring customer needs are met.

Travel Tech Firms

For travel tech firms, Biden’s automatic refunds policy could signal a need to update your systems. These adjustments could pave the way for fresh opportunities in software development and integration services, fostering growth within the industry.

Moreover, as you adapt to seamlessly handling automatic refunds, you enhance your appeal to users. Streamlined refund processes not only improve user experience but also position travel tech firms as pioneers in innovation and customer satisfaction.

Event Planning and Group Travel

Offering guaranteed refunds goes beyond financial transactions for event planning and group travel companies. It can be a powerful selling point.

Emphasizing this policy in your marketing efforts will differentiate you from competitors and attract clients who prioritize flexibility and peace of mind. This will instill confidence in your clients, translating into increased bookings and stronger customer relationships.

A traveler hands over her ticket to an airline crew. Mini infographic outlines impact of Bidden-Harris refunds policy on Customer Experience.

The Challenge: Rigorous Customer Expectations

Customers Demanding Instant Refunds

With Biden’s new regulations mandating automatic refunds, you face the challenge of meeting the heightened demands for quick refunds. One of the key aspects of these new rules is the requirement to issue refunds within a specified timeframe. 

For credit card purchases, you need to process refunds within seven days, while other forms of payment must be refunded within 20 days. In an age where instant gratification is the norm, timely refunds are crucial to meeting your customers’ expectations for swift service.

On the surface, this seems straightforward. However, the reality is more complex, especially for credit card transactions, which dominated the landscape (31% of all payments in 2022). Merchants often have internal processing times for refunds, typically taking a few business days to initiate the refund process. This delay can frustrate customers expecting immediate resolution. 

Once a merchant initiates a refund, it must also navigate the banking system, which can introduce further delays. Each bank has its own processing timeline, meaning a refund initiated promptly by a merchant might still take several days to appear in a customer’s account. Additionally, some financial firms have specific refund policies that dictate the timing and method of refund, fuelling even more delays, particularly if they are not aligned with the new federal mandates.

High Risk for Fraud 

While Biden’s new policy promises greater customer satisfaction through automatic refunds, it also introduces new vulnerabilities. Quicker processes could mean there is less time to verify the legitimacy of transactions, increasing the risk of fraudulent refunds. High transaction volumes will also make it challenging to monitor each one closely, creating blindspots where fraud can go undetected. 

Fraud in digital transactions has been escalating at an alarming rate. From 2019 and 2022 alone, fraudulent digital transactions in the U.S. soared by 122% — identity theft incidents also increased by 81%. The travel industry, with its reliance on digital payments and the high value of transactions, is particularly susceptible to these risks.

Research also shows that four-fifths of frauds are cyber-enabled. This means the industry’s reliance on digital payments can easily be exploited by tech-savvy fraudsters. As travel continues, so must your approach to fraud prevention. Traditional methods of fraud detection may no longer suffice against sophisticated fraudulent schemes. Instead, cutting-edge solutions are required to stay ahead of potential threats.

Handling of Bundle Deals for Travel Agencies 

Travel agencies are no strangers to complexity. 

Even before Biden’s policy, agencies faced several significant challenges. For one thing, you must coordinate with multiple suppliers for bundled services — such as flights, hotels, and car rentals — each with its own policies and timelines for refunds. These need to be processed seamlessly, requiring meticulous coordination and advanced systems. However, it can grow cumbersome, especially when dealing with international suppliers operating under different regulations and time zones.

Additionally, now, you need to ensure that your partners have enough liquidity to issue refunds promptly. Simply put, Biden’s new policy can strain your cash flow if you opt for reimbursements.

Investments in New Travel App

Biden’s automatic refund policy significantly pressures travel agencies and airlines to streamline refund processes. To meet these new demands, substantial investments in advanced travel technology are essential. However, these investments come with hefty costs, both upfront and ongoing, that can significantly impact your operational expenses.

Cost of Developing New Travel Tech

App Complexity:

  • Simple Apps: $10,000 and $40,000 
  • Moderately Complex Apps: $30,000 to $500,000
  • High-End Apps: Can exceed $500,000 and potentially reach millions

Platform Costs:

  • Hybrid Apps (Android + iOS): $13,000 to $16,000
  • Web Apps: $13,000 to $16,000
  • Single-Platform Apps (Android or iOS): $8,000 and $14,000

Maintenance and Updates:

  • Ongoing maintenance, updates, and improvements are essential to keeping the technology functional and secure. They often cost 15-20% of the initial development cost.

Investing in new travel tech will inevitably draw from the operational budgets of travel agencies and airlines. Developing advanced refund and booking systems will require a substantial initial investment, potentially diverting funds from other critical areas such as marketing, customer service, and operational improvements. 

Beyond development, the costs of implementing new technology include training staff, integrating the new systems with existing infrastructure, and potentially hiring additional IT personnel to manage the transition.

Tougher Competition

Refunds used to be a key differentiator for airlines and travel businesses. But with Biden’s new policy leveling the playing field, it may become more difficult for you to stand out. This warrants your renewed focus and financial investments in other areas, such as off-the-beaten-path destinations, adventure experiences, themed packages, and multiple-tiered loyalty programs. 

Empowering the Travel Industry: Essential Customer Experience Solutions To Meet Heightened Customer Expectations

The travel industry faces an unprecedented surge in customer inquiries with the refund policy at hand, leading to overwhelmed customer service hotlines and frustrated customers. Amid these challenges, outsourcing customer service functions can provide a viable solution to manage call queues and maintain high service standards.

Omnichannel Customer Experience Solutions

In the wake of Biden’s automatic refund policy, ensuring exceptional customer service is paramount for hospitality and airline businesses. With digital customer experience solutions, you can effectively manage irate customers across various communication channels, including phone, email, chat, and social media. 

Customer experience solutions providers leverage integrated platforms that enable seamless interaction. These platforms allow you to address customer inquiries, resolve issues, and provide personalized assistance in real-time. With a trusted partner by your side, you can enhance customer satisfaction, mitigate potential conflicts, and build lasting relationships with your valued clientele.

Multilingual Support Services

As hospitality and airline businesses cater to diverse international clients, offering multilingual support is essential for fostering positive guest experiences. These ensure effective communication with customers from different linguistic backgrounds, enabling you to address needs and concerns with ease. 

Whether it’s providing assistance in Spanish, Mandarin, French, or any other language, outsourced customer support teams guarantee clear and accurate communication, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty across global markets.

Data Entry and Record Management

Efficient data entry and record management are critical in maintaining accurate client and flight records, particularly in the context of automatic refunds. 

Outsourcing data entry services accurately capture, organize, and update essential information, including passenger details, booking records, and refund transactions. With outsourcing providers’ meticulous attention to detail and advanced data management systems, you can streamline operations, minimize errors, and ensure data integrity throughout the refund process. 

Entrusting data entry to BPOs enhances operational efficiency and customer satisfaction while maintaining compliance with data protection regulations.

Learn About Customer Experience Solutions Amid Evolving Travel Regulations

As travel regulations continue to evolve, maintaining exceptional customer service is more challenging and critical than ever. 

SuperStaff specializes in providing comprehensive outsourcing solutions tailored to the unique needs of the travel and hospitality industries. Enhance your customer service, streamline operations, and focus on your core business objectives, all while adapting seamlessly to the changing landscape of travel regulations.


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