Airlines might have to compensate passengers for canceled flights

View down commercial airplane aisle

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is working on legislation to require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses related to controllable delays and cancellations.

The rule would hold airlines responsible for amenities like meals, hotels, transportation and rebooking — in addition to compensation — when they are to blame for stranding passengers.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. “This rule would, for the first time in U.S. history, propose to require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses.”

The DOT’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard at flightrights.gov was expanded Monday to highlight airlines currently offering vouchers, cash compensation and frequent flyer miles in the event of delays or cancellations.

No airline currently guarantees cash compensation when things don’t go as planned. Only one airline guarantees frequent flyer miles, and two offer vouchers or travel credits in these instances.

Buttigieg has been pressing airlines to offer better customer service.

After a two-year push, the 10 largest airlines now guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline, and nine offer hotel accommodations in the event of an airline-caused delay or cancellation.

After a DOT push for airlines to commit to fee-free family seating earlier this year, three airlines now guarantee a parent or caregiver can sit next to a child 13 or under without paying extra.

The DOT said last year it issued the largest fines in the history of the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, which brought millions of dollars back to hundreds of thousands of people. Since 2021, customers have seen $1 billion back in refunds with help from the DOT.

By Elina Tarkazikis, Scripps News.

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