The President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, announced last Monday that his government is preparing a new regulation that will force airlines to grant extra compensation to passengers when they are responsible for delays and cancellations. “My Administration will propose a landmark new rule that will force all airlines in the United States to compensate with meals, hotels, taxis, rebooking fees, and cash, miles, or travel coupons when they are at fault for cancellation or delay”, he said in a statement to the press.
So far, there are only 2 major airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue, which, in addition to the usual compensations, such as food vouchers or hotel nights, offer travel vouchers when the difference from the initial departure time exceeds 3 hours. Only Alaska Airlines commits to mileage compensation in such cases, but no airline in the country guarantees cash compensation.
US catching up
“Passengers from Canada, the European Union and elsewhere already receive these compensations. And you know what? They work. According to a study, the number of delays in the European Union dropped when airlines were forced to compensate passengers for delays”, Biden said. The Democratic president pointed out that his Administration will present this new regulation “later”.
His announcement follows the launch of a new website, flightrights.gov, which provides passengers with more transparency about compensation for delays and cancellations, including information on companies that give cash, travel miles orvouchers. Biden stressed that the passenger “deserves something more than to see the price of his ticket compensated” because his time “imports”. “We are making progress, but we have to do more to reverse decades of concentration of corporate power and continue to lower prices and increase opportunities for families”, he said.
The Department of Transportation pointed out in a statement that the planned regulations seek to guarantee that passengers are better protected against economic losses that a cancellation or delay may entail. The announcements come on the eve of the summer season and after winter storm Elliot last Christmas caused thousands of cancellations and affected Southwest Airlines in particular.
The Department of Transportation recalled that “record” fines were imposed last year that helped “hundreds of thousands of people” recover “hundreds of millions of dollars” for delays or cancellations. The regulations that are being outlined would oblige airlines to “proactively” inform passengers about the compensation to which they are entitled when there are changes of more than 3 hours on domestic flights and more than 6 hours on international flights.
Likewise, they would be required to offer travel vouchers that do not expire when a person cannot travel due to Covid-19 or other contagious diseases. “The summer season is going to put enormous pressure on the system and we need to continue the work (…). We work to ensure that Americans have a better experience with our transportation system”, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg added to the press.