Just before Labor Day weekend, the federal government is doubling down on US carriers, calling disruptions observed in recent months “unacceptable” and demanding change.
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote to airlines on Thursday urging them to improve their customer service and warning airlines that new rules may be introduced to better empower travelers who face flight disruptions within the airline’s control.
“Americans expect that when they buy a plane ticket, they will arrive at their destination safely, reliably and affordably,” the secretary wrote.
In the first six months of this year, about 24% of US airlines’ domestic flights were delayed and 3.2% canceled, according to ministry data.
DOT said it will launch a new website in the coming weeks where travelers can see exactly what they owe and the differences in compensation between all major airlines.
“If passengers do experience cancellations and delays, they are entitled to clear and transparent information about the services your airline will provide to help address the costs and inconveniences caused by these disruptions,” Buttigieg wrote.
Buttigieg said airlines should “assess” their customer service plans, asking airlines to provide at least meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and hotels for passengers who have to wait overnight at an airport due to disruptions within airline control. .
Airlines for America (A4A), the group that lobbies on behalf of all major US airlines, responded to the letter, saying its members are “committed” to working with stakeholders to address these challenges.
Carriers have pointed to increased demand and staffing problems for the disruptions. A4A also cited data indicating that 63% of cancellations for the first five months of 2022 were caused by the weather and the National Airspace System (NAS) combined.
The DOT letter comes amid a push for consumer rights — earlier this month, the department announced a new rule that would “strengthen” protections for customers seeking refunds.
The rule, if in effect, would define for the first time the terms of a “significant” change and cancellation and also require airlines to issue refunds for flights delayed by three hours.
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