Airlines pushed again by DOT to be better on delays and cancellations
Air travelers will soon have a new tool to help evaluate airline amenities when flights get delayed or canceled.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told airline CEOs on Thursday that his department will be launching a new website meant to outline what airlines say they’ll will provide during irregular options. The new site comes amid a broader push by the agency to pressure the industry to improve consumer protections. Earlier this month, the DOT proposed rules on refunds and pressed the carriers to make their own policies more consumer-friendly — or risk further regulation by the government.
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The new site, which is expected to launch Sept. 2, will feature information that’s already publicly available. It’s currently filed with the department in individual airlines' customer service plans, but this is the first time that the department will provide it in a consumer-friendly format.
In the letters, one of which was shared with TPG, Buttigieg also implored airlines to provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and hotel accommodations for overnight disruptions. He also said that the department is exploring possible regulatory action "that would further expand the rights of airline passengers who experience disruptions."
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Most airlines already provide these types of accommodations when the delay is within their control and not caused by weather or other external factors.
The move comes toward the end of a summer of operational disruptions for U.S. air travelers — and multiple rounds of finger-pointing between airline leaders and federal officials.
"The level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer is unacceptable," Buttigieg wrote in the letter. "In the first six months of 2022, roughly 24% of the domestic flights of U.S. airlines have been delayed and 3.2% have been canceled. As you know, these aren’t just numbers, these are missed birthday parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings."
Related: Pete Buttigieg thinks airlines are too stingy with refunds. He tells TPG how he wants to fix it
Airlines contend that many of the delays are due to air traffic control issues — particularly staffing, something under the purview of the Federal Aviation Administration. On Monday evening, the FAA warned travelers of staffing-related delays in and out of New York City's congested airspace.
In a statement to TPG, Airlines for America, the industry's lobbying group, noted the challenges are being faced by both the airlines and the federal government.
"As our nation emerges from the pandemic, industries across the economy, as well as the federal government, are facing a range of challenges – including a tight labor market," the group said in a statement. "We are all in this together, and U.S. airlines are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to overcome these headwinds. Airlines want travelers to have a safe, seamless and positive travel experience and are working toward that goal every day."