New DOT Rulemaking Aims to Compensate Stranded Passengers for Airline-Caused Delays and Cancellations
WASHINGTON – In a groundbreaking move, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced plans to initiate a rulemaking process that would require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses, such as meals, hotels, and rebooking, in instances where passengers are stranded due to airline-caused delays or cancellations. This would be the first time in U.S. history that airlines would be required to provide compensation for controllable disruptions.
The DOT's push for improved passenger experience over the past two years has led to the ten largest airlines now guaranteeing meals, free rebooking on the same airline, and hotel accommodations for controllable delays or cancellations. However, according to the newly-expanded DOT dashboard at FlightRights.Gov, only a few airlines currently offer compensation for airline-caused disruptions.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated, "When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill. 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 rulemaking will address several areas, including compensation for passengers when there is a controllable airline cancellation or significant delay; provision of meals or meal vouchers, overnight accommodations, ground transportation, and rebooking for controllable disruptions; timely customer service during widespread flight irregularities; and defining controllable cancellations and delays.
The DOT's announcement comes after a series of unprecedented actions aimed at protecting the traveling public, including the largest fines in the history of the Department's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, helping travelers recover more than $1 billion in refunds. Additionally, the Department has proposed rules to strengthen consumer protections, including mandatory fee-free family seating, proactive communication of refund rights, and requiring airlines to provide non-expiring vouchers or travel credits for passengers unable to travel due to communicable diseases.
As part of its ongoing commitment to transparency and consumer protection, the DOT's Airline Customer Service Dashboard and FlightRights.Gov now include information on airlines' current guarantees and compensation for controllable cancellations and delays. With the planned rulemaking, the Department aims to ensure passengers experiencing controllable disruptions are better protected from financial losses and potentially improve airline on-time performance.
With the proposed rulemaking in place, the DOT seeks to create a more just and transparent environment for air travelers. The Department has taken a proactive approach in pushing airlines to improve their customer service and treat passengers fairly when disruptions occur due to controllable circumstances.
In the past, airlines have not always been held accountable for the inconveniences passengers face due to airline-caused cancellations or delays. By implementing these new regulations, the DOT aims to ensure that travelers are treated with respect and compensated accordingly when the airline is at fault for disruptions.
The rulemaking process will likely include discussions and negotiations with airlines, consumer groups, and other stakeholders to determine the specifics of the proposed regulations. The final rules may impact not only the airline industry but also passengers' overall travel experiences.
It is important for passengers to stay informed about their rights and the services they are entitled to receive from airlines. The DOT's aviation consumer website at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer provides valuable information about airline passenger rights, as well as the Department's rules, guidance, and orders.
As this rulemaking process progresses, the Department of Transportation's commitment to transparency and consumer protection remains at the forefront of its actions. The implementation of these new rules is expected to bring about a positive change in the airline industry, ensuring that passengers are treated fairly and with respect, even in the face of unexpected delays and cancellations.