Travelers may soon receive cash or miles as compensation for delayed or cancelled flights
ATLANTA - Changes could be coming to the way airlines handle flight cancelations and delays. On Monday, the Biden administration announced it wants to require airlines to compensate travelers with cash, miles, or travel vouchers, and pay for meals, hotels, and other amenities when there is a significant delay or cancelation that is within an airlines’ control.
"Airlines need to accept their fundamental responsibility to better serve passengers," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Things like mechanical or crew issues would be covered while weather and air traffic control problems would not be.
Europe has had similar rules in place for years.
"One study found that the European Union required airlines to compensate passengers for flight delays," said President Joe Biden. "The number of flight delays went down."
Aviation experts and travelers believe the proposed rules are a good move.
"It would make sure that things go right more often because when they don't, when airlines do screw up, they have to pay somebody," said Kyle Potter, executive editor of ThriftyTraveler.com.
"I do think it would be something that should have happened a while ago and if they could take care of it now, I mean, better late than never," said Leah Bridgewater, who was traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.
The Biden administration is exploring changes to the way airlines are required to handle flight cancelations and delays.
These rules are not set in stone yet, and will take time before they become official. For now, the U.S. Department of Transportation has set up an airline customer service dashboard which shows flyers their rights. It can be found at FlightRights.gov.
The industry trade association, Airlines for America, released a statement following the announcement:
"U.S. airlines have no incentive to delay or cancel a flight and do everything in their control to ensure flights depart and arrive on time—but safety is always the top priority. We have the safest air travel system in the world because we never compromise on safety.
"One of the biggest impacts on flight operations is weather, and in 2022, more than half of flight cancelations were caused by extreme weather. Thus far in 2023, the majority of flight cancelations have been because of ATC outages and severe weather.
"Carriers have taken responsibility for challenges within their control and continue working diligently to improve operational reliability. This includes launching aggressive, successful hiring campaigns for positions across the industry and reducing schedules in response to the FAA’s staffing shortages. In 2022, carriers reduced their schedules by about 15% to alleviate pressure on the National Airspace System (NAS), and U.S. airlines are currently accommodating record demand while operating 10% fewer flights than in 2019 to reduce pressure on the system.
"We look forward to working with the Administration to ensure U.S. airspace remains the safest airspace in the world while supporting robust marketplace competition that provides transparency and vast options for consumers."
Delta also released a statement:
"Second only to safety, Delta’s priority is to do right by our customers when delays or cancelations happen. Our focus is on providing industry-leading operational reliability and customer service, which is why our people are empowered to make personalized, real-time decisions to care for, accommodate and compensate customers for inconvenience from delays and cancelations, regardless of the cause."