White House to Propose Mandating Airlines Compensate for Cancelled Flights

May 8, 2023

President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday were set to announce a new rule to examine mandating airlines compensate expenses for “controllable airline cancellations” and delays.

Currently no airlines provide cash compensation for preventable cancellations or delays. One guarantees frequent flyer miles, and two others provide credits or vouchers, according to the White House.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Buttigieg said in a statement. He added that the new rule would propose to require that airlines compensate passengers and cover expenses for meals, hotels and rebooking in such circumstances.

Biden and Buttigieg would also announce that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will launch an expanded Airline Customer Service Dashboard at FlightRights.gov to show which airlines offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers or award frequent flyer miles. It will also show which airlines cover the cost of amenities. 

The Biden Administration already uses FlightRights.gov to show which airlines have committed to fee-free family seating for those traveling with kids 13 or younger. That move came after President Biden attacked “junk fees” during this year’s State of the Union address, and after a four-month review by the DOT that had found not a single U.S. airline had guaranteed fee-free family seating (currently three of the 10 largest U.S. airlines do). 

Citing data for the first six months of 2022 which found that nearly one-fourth of all flights had been delayed and other 3.2 had been canceled, Buttigieg in August wrote to the chief executives of the nation’s 10 largest airlines, telling them their track record for scheduled take-offs was “unacceptable.” 

“These aren’t just numbers, these are missed birthday parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings,” he wrote as passengers were at the time bracing for Labor Day travel. 

Those 2022 stats did not include the Christmas season meltdown at Southwest Airlines, where a massive winter storm led to nearly 16,000 delayed flights over the holidays, leaving passengers in limbo and luggage abandoned at baggage claims throughout the U.S.  

Airlines have further attributed delay and cancellation problems to labor challenges and a rapid rebound from the pandemic.

Both the DOT and the Senate Commerce Committee have investigated the Southwest meltdown, demanding it greatly improve its systems.

Currently airlines are gearing up for more flight disruptions as the TSA expects a record number of travelers this upcoming summer season.

So far in 2023, about 22% of flights have been delayed.

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