Technological failures, system outages and staffing shortages have caused thousands of flight delays and cancellations in recent months, wreaking havoc for travelers across the country and putting a spotlight on transportation officials. According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, around 20 percent of flights were delayed last year. While the weather is often to blame, airlines are also frequently at fault.
President Biden and the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, announced a proposed new rule on Monday to compensate passengers affected by carrier-caused slowdowns. Under the proposal, airlines would be required to cover certain expenses for passengers as well as pay them for the inconvenience of flight delays and cancellations.
“I know how frustrated many of you are with the service you get from your U.S. airlines,” Mr. Biden said during the announcement at the White House. “Your time matters. The impact on your life matters.”
What would the change mean for travelers?
Under the new rule, carriers would have to provide passengers with assistance and monetary compensation when the airlines are at fault for cancellations or delays of three hours or more. Beyond free rebooking or refunding the price of the ticket, airlines would have to cover other costs incurred by travelers, such as hotels, meals and ground transportation. Additionally, inconvenienced fliers would be entitled to a payment in the form of cash, miles or travel vouchers.
“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a statement. The rule would also define “controllable cancellation and delay,” making it harder for airlines to deflect responsibility.
The Department of Transportation is still working out the specifics of how much travelers will be able to expect to be paid for their lost time or how claims will be handled, a spokesperson said in an email.
How is this different from what airlines already offer?
Since last year, most U.S. air carriers have committed to some type of compensation for passengers affected by controllable cancellations and significant delays. All 10 major carriers rebook passengers on the same airline at no additional cost, provide meals or meal vouchers when passengers are left waiting for three hours or more, and — with the exception of Frontier Airlines — furnish complimentary ground transportation and lodging in the case of overnight cancellations away…
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