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Biden Proposes New Rules for Airline Passenger Compensation

The proposed regulations would require airlines to compensate passengers for costs incurred due to flight cancellations and delays caused by the airline

by Fergus Cole

May 10, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

The Biden administration has announced plans to ensure air passengers affected by significant flight delays or cancellations receive compensation from their airlines.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg unveiled proposed customer protection rules during a White House press conference on Monday, May 8.

The new rules would require airlines to compensate passengers for costs incurred due to flight cancellations and delays caused by the airline. This compensation would extend beyond a full ticket refund and include expenses such as meal vouchers and accommodation costs.

Photo: Courtesy of CHUTTERSNAP / Unsplash

If implemented, the proposed regulations would provide greater protection for passengers and hold airlines accountable for disruptions within their control.

These proposed regulations aim to define the meaning of a “controllable cancellation or delay” and mandate airlines to compensate passengers, including meal vouchers, accommodation expenses, ground transportation, and rebooking costs, in case of such disruptions.

Moreover, airlines would be required to provide “timely customer service” during and after widespread flight disruptions, as observed during the recent holiday season.

“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.”

Photo: Courtesy of Anete Lūsiņa / Unsplash

The announcement is the latest move in a string of attempts by the Biden administration to improve passenger rights in the aviation industry. It comes just weeks after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) updated its airline customer service dashboard to reveal which U.S. airlines charge for families to be seated together after Biden criticized the industry’s use of ‘junk fees.’

Following the government’s announcement on Monday, the DOT’s cancellation and delay dashboards have been expanded to show which costs each airline compensates its affected passengers for. Three categories have been added to the dashboard, showing which airlines offer cash compensation when flight disruptions cause passengers to wait for 3 hours or more, which airlines offer travel credit or vouchers for such delays, and which offer frequent flyer miles.

At present, no airline provides cash compensation for such disruption. However, Alaska Airlines distinguishes itself by offering frequent flyer miles to passengers affected by a delay of more than three hours. Also, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue provide stranded passengers with travel credit or a voucher.

Despite the lack of industry-wide standards, most airlines have voluntarily implemented some compensation policies. For instance, all ten major U.S. airlines offer meals or meal vouchers to passengers who experience three hours or more delays.

Furthermore, they offer to rebook passengers on an alternative flight with no additional fee. However, according to the DOT dashboard, unlike other major carriers, Frontier Airlines does not provide complimentary hotel accommodation or ground transportation to and from the hotel for stranded passengers.