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DOT to Propose Requirements for Airlines to Cover Expenses and Compensate Stranded Passengers

May 25, 2023

For the first time in U.S. history, DOT initiates rulemaking that would require airlines to compensate passengers and cover certain expenses for controllable delays and cancellations.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced plans to launch a new rule aimed at requiring airlines to provide compensation and cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels, and rebooking when airlines are responsible for stranding passengers.

After a two-year DOT push to improve the passenger experience, the 10 largest airlines guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard. DOT recently expanded the dashboard at FlightRights.Gov to highlight which airlines currently offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations. DOT’s planned rulemaking would make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight disruptions.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This rule would, for the first time in U.S. history, propose to require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses such as meals, hotels, and rebooking in cases where the airline has caused a cancellation or significant delay.”

The planned rule is aimed at addressing:

  • Compensation for passengers when there is a controllable airline cancellation or significant delay;
  • A meal or meal voucher, overnight accommodations, ground transportation to and from the hotel, and rebooking for controllable delays or cancellations;
  • Timely customer service during and after periods of widespread flight irregularities;
  • Definition of a controllable cancellation or delay.

In addition to announcing plans to initiate a rulemaking that would strengthen consumer protections, the Department has launched FlightRights.Gov and expanded its Airline Customer Service Dashboard to give travelers more transparency about the types of compensation, if any, airlines currently guarantee when they are the cause of a cancelation or delay. The following categories were added to Commitments for Controllable Cancellations and Controllable Delays:

  • Cash compensation when cancellation or delay results in passenger waiting three hours or more from the scheduled departure time;
  • Travel credit/voucher when cancellation or delay results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for scheduled departure time;
  • Frequent flyer miles when cancellation or delay results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for a flight from the scheduled departure time.

Currently, one airline guarantees frequent flyer miles, and two airlines guarantee travel credits or vouchers as compensation if passengers experience significant delays or cancellations that are caused by something within the airline’s control, such as a mechanical issue. No airline guarantees cash compensation when an airline issue causes the significant delay or cancellation. The Department’s rulemaking proposes to ensure that passengers experiencing controllable delays and cancellations are better protected from financial losses than is the case today. The Department plans to define “controllable cancellation and delay” in this rulemaking. Also, the Department believes that this rulemaking could result in improved airline on-time performance.

The announcement builds upon work that DOT has been pushing on for the last two years in taking unprecedented action to ensure the traveling public is protected.

For information about airline passenger rights, as well as DOT’s rules, guidance and orders, visit the Department’s aviation consumer website here.

Courtesy of Groups Today.