President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are pushing for a new rule that would mandate airlines to compensate and cover expenses for customers facing “controllable airline cancellations” or delays.
The proposal, which the White House says is the first of its kind in US history, would require airlines to provide cash compensation, travel credits, or vouchers, and cover costs for other amenities when the airline is at fault for a cancellation or significant delay.
“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Buttigieg said in a statement. Biden and Buttigieg also announced that the Department of Transportation is launching an expanded Airline Customer Service Dashboard at FlightRights.gov, which shows which airlines offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles and cover the costs for other amenities.
The proposed rule would also establish what constitutes a “controllable cancellation or delay.”
Buttigieg has been under fire for a chain of flight cancellations at the end of last year and beginning of this year and an “uptick in serious close calls” between planes landing and taking off.
In response to the cancellations, Buttigieg called CEOs of the 10 largest airline companies and pressed them on stress testing their schedule and improving customer service. He also issued a letter to the CEOs, saying he would publish charts showing which airlines guaranteed which forms of compensation for canceled or delayed flights.
Seven of those airlines – including Southwest – changed their policies before they were posted, and two followed suit soon after. Ten airlines now guarantee meals, with nine guaranteeing hotel accommodations, when a delay or cancellation is the airlines’ fault, according to the DOT.
Critics have been quick to point out that the Biden administration’s proposal doesn’t go far enough, stating that it should also include provisions for “non–controllable” cancellations or delays, such as those caused by weather.
It is unclear when the rule will be finalized, but it is expected to be implemented at some point in 2021. The Biden administration’s proposal is a step in the right direction for improving customer service for those affected by airline cancellations and delays.