WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Monday that it will seek to require airlines to compensate passengers for long-haul flight delays and cancellations.
The proposed rule would require airlines to provide cash payments rather than simply refunds in cases of major travel disruptions that were under the airline’s control. No major US carrier currently guarantees monetary compensation for delays or cancellations, according to the Department of Transportation.
“I know how frustrated a lot of you are with the service you get from American airlines,” President Biden said at the White House on Monday, appearing with Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, to announce the proposal. The president added that he wanted to “get a better deal for American air travelers.”
The aviation industry has come under intense scrutiny after a series of problems, including several recent flight disruptions as travelers return to the skies after the height of the coronavirus pandemic. In December, a winter storm led to an operational meltdown at Southwest Airlines, leaving passengers stranded during the holiday travel season.
The suggested rule adds to mr. Buttigieg’s efforts to push the airline industry to improve the customer experience. During his tenure, the Department of Transportation fined airlines millions of dollars for a number of violations, including cases involving refunds to customers, though some critics have pushed for him to take a harder line with the industry.
In September, the department rolled out the Online dashboard Show travelers What services are they entitled to receive? If their flights are delayed or cancelled. Mr. Buttigieg attributed the creation of the dashboard to pushing airlines to improve their policies towards consumers.
The ministry has also pushed airlines to ensure that young children can sit with their parents at no extra charge. In March, it unveiled a similar dashboard showing which airlines have done just that.
The proposed rule announced Monday is the latest in a series of consumer-oriented steps announced by the Biden administration. In his February State of the Union address, Mr. Highlighting his administration’s efforts to cut “junk fees,” Biden has targeted airlines for charging families to sit together.
The proposal to require airlines to compensate passengers for flight delays and cancellations is similar to policy already in place in the European Union, where travelers can get up to €600, or about $660, for travel disruptions.
“When an airline causes a flight to be canceled or delayed, passengers should not pay the bill,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “This rule would, for the first time in US history, propose requiring airlines to reimburse passengers and cover expenses such as meals, hotels, and rebookings in cases where the airline has caused a significant cancellation or delay.”
In addition to requiring compensation for passengers, the new proposal would also require airlines to cover expenses such as meals and hotel accommodations incurred due to delays or cancellations within the airlines’ control. Many airlines already do this.
In a statement released Monday, American Airlines, a trade association representing the nation’s largest airlines, said American Airlines “has no incentive to delay or cancel a flight and does everything it can to ensure flights depart and arrive on time — but safety.” It’s always the top priority.”
The group pointed to factors beyond the airlines’ control, such as interruptions in weather and air traffic monitoring. She said more than half of last year’s cancellations were due to weather, and noted that airlines have reduced their schedules in response to the FAA’s staffing shortages.
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