New passenger compensation for flight delays, cancellation rules to be developed

If your flight plans are delayed or canceled, you may be able to recoup some of the money you spend dealing with travel disruptions.

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The Biden administration announced on Monday the beginning of an effort to ensure that passengers are compensated when significant flight delays or cancellations are caused by something in the airline’s control.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement before the announcement, The Associated Press reported.

Airlines for America, which represents domestic airlines, said that delays are usually not the fault of the companies, but rather other issues outside of their control such as weather and air traffic.

“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,” Airlines for America said, according to The Washington Post. “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.”

The proposed changes, while introduced on Monday, may take months or years to be put into practice, and will likely be opposed by the airline industry, The Washington Post reported.

Right now, when airlines cancel flights for any reason, passengers can get a refund for the unused portion of their tickets, as well as some extra fees for items like checked baggage and seat selections, but airlines frequently try to persuade them to take a travel voucher instead of cash, the AP reported.

By contrast, the European Union requires airlines to give passengers cash for cancellations and the amount can increase depending on the length of the flight with a cap of about $660, The Washington Post reported.

The White House is requiring airlines to improve their customer service and has launched an online dashboard allowing consumers to check each airline’s policies when it comes to compensation and refunds when there are travel disruptions.

The issues of paying out-of-pocket for unplanned costs such as meals or lodging were spotlighted after a travel meltdown by Southwest in December that resulted in 17,000 flights being canceled. The incidents are being investigated by the Department of Justice to find out whether the carrier scheduled more flights than it could handle, the AP reported.

More than 3,000 flights were canceled on a single day in December, with the majority — 2,600 flights — canceled by Southwest, The Hill reported.

While the airlines were the focus of complaints, Republicans targeted Buttigieg over not only the flight issues but also several train derailments in recent months, calling on him to resign, The Hill reported.

All airlines have promised to give food vouchers or cash to passengers who are delayed for three hours or more for a new flight, while nine of 10 have promised to pay for accommodations if passengers are stranded overnight. The only airline not to provide accommodations was Frontier, the AP reported.

In addition to travel delay compensation, the administration may also include rules that will help make the pricing of travel more transparent, The Hill reported.

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