Biden Administration Proposes New Airline Passenger Compensation Rule for Controllable Delays and Cancellations
On May 10, 2023, the Biden administration announced a proposal for a new rule that would require airlines to compensate passengers for “controllable airline cancellations” and delays. The suggested regulation aims to tackle the issue of compensation for travelers in the event of an airline’s controllable cancellation or substantial delay. This includes provisions for meals or meal vouchers, overnight lodgings, ground transportation to and from the hotel, and rebooking for controllable cancellations or delays. The proposed rule would only apply to cancellations and delays within the airlines’ control and would require airlines to provide refunds and compensation to passengers, as well as meals, overnight accommodations, and rebooking for passengers stranded by delays.
The proposed regulation mandates that airlines offer reimbursement and additional compensation, akin to the passenger protection policies enforced in the EU, for canceled flights or prolonged delays caused by disruptions caused by the airline. Airlines would be obligated to cover the costs of overnight hotel stays and transportation in the event of major flight disruptions, even though several airlines already offer these services.
On Sunday, a representative from the White House announced that the suggested regulations would mandate airlines to offer prompt assistance to customers in the event of flight disruptions. The government is planning to enforce the requirement of “timely customer service” during extensive flight cancellations, with the intention of preventing situations similar to Southwest Airlines’ chaotic holiday season. Numerous passengers were left stranded and frustrated as they struggled to obtain even the most basic information.
The Department of Transportation dashboard showing what airlines have committed to for controllable delays and cancellations is going to be updated to “make clear that virtually no airlines offer compensation on top of refunds or amenities.” The transportation department has also updated its Airline Customer Service Dashboard, accessible at FlightRights.Gov. The digital resource provides information on the delay and cancellation policies of 10 different carriers. At present, there is no provision for cash compensation by any of the airlines mentioned for delays exceeding three hours. The recent endeavors of Biden and Buttigieg are expected to bring about a transformation in this regard.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that the proposed rules will help improve airlines’ on-time performance. According to the White House, the updated website will indicate that a single airline provides assured frequent flyer miles, while two airlines provide travel credits or vouchers as recompense in case of considerable delays or cancellations due to issues within the airline’s responsibility, such as mechanical problems. No airline ensures providing monetary compensation for avoidable delays and cancellations.
The White House and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are expected to announce a rulemaking process that will examine the possibility of slapping a number of requirements on airlines in the event of controllable airline cancellation and delays, according to a White House official. After numerous incidents of severe airline delays and cancellations, which caused immense inconvenience to countless passengers, the Biden Administration has proposed new laws to protect passenger rights. Southwest Airlines experienced a major setback last year during the holiday season, with approximately 3,000 flights being canceled in a single day.
The new rules would push for airlines to make such compensation a requirement, similar to the EU261 compensation scheme in the European Union. Not only is this a very clear “bill of rights” for consumers about the duty airlines have to take care of passengers, but it also provides cash compensation for any delays or cancelations within the carrier’s control. The cost can vary between €250 and €600 based on the duration of the delay and the type of flight.
While the airlines for America trade association representing major U.S. airlines said they “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,” some argue that many times cancellations are out of the airline’s control. However, the Department of Transportation’s rulemaking attempts aim to ensure passengers experiencing controllable delays and cancellations are better protected from financial losses.
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