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Airlines Butt Heads with White House over Consumer Protections

While the Biden Administration is claiming a victory in air travel consumer protections, the aviation industry claims the messaging omits certain details.
The summer of 2022 may go down as one of the most challenging periods in aviation history due to cancellations and staffing shortages. However, the White House and the airlines disagree on what constitutes a victory for customer service.


Reuters reports the aviation industry is pushing back on comments made by U.S. President Joe Biden and the Transportation Department, calling some of their assertations “not accurate.”


Airlines Say Consumer Protection Dashboard Reflects Pre-Existing Policies

Before the 2022 Labor Day holiday, the Transportation Department published a “Customer Service Dashboard” for airline policies in the event of irregular operations. The site – part of the Aviation Consumer Protection unit – outlines what carriers owe passengers in the event of a controllable cancellation, controllable delay, as well as links to the airline customer service policies.


In comments on Monday, September 12, 2022, Biden said that the move was part of a larger plan for “cracking down on the airlines to get passengers fairer treatment.” As quoted by Reuters, the President claimed that he made the request of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to “call them [the airlines] out,” and that prior to the move airlines would not cover meals or hotels for controllable delays or cancellations.


Consumer aviation consortium Airlines for America called the President’s comments “not accurate,” telling Reuters the dashboard simply reflects the formalization of existing airline policies. In a August 2022 blog post, Airlines for America president and chief executive Nicholas E. Calio noted the work the entire industry is doing to be more consumer friendly, including “operating realistic schedules” and offering refunds for cancelled flights.


“Airlines have also adjusted travel policies to increase flexibility such as eliminating change fees or waiving expiration dates on travel credits,” Calio wrote in the comments. “U.S. carriers have issued $21 billion in cash refunds since the onset of the pandemic, and refund complaints to the Department of Transportation (DOT) have been steadily declining.”


Airlines Say Governments Need to do More to Support Commercial Aviation

The clash in comments mark the latest row between governments and airlines, with the air transport sector claiming governments need to do more to support the recovering industry. At the IATA 2022 Annual General Meeting, leaders for the global trade organization said governments need to do more to protect the industry and encourage growth, while not adding additional regulations.

not2017 September 16, 2022

US airlines will do anything possible to wiggle out of anything that is customer oriented. The AfA is just a marketing organization/lobbyist that misrepresents facts to benefit the airlines every time they speak or publish a press release. As far as Biden, at the very least, his admistration is trying to do something. Whereas nitcompoop Trump was willing let B737Max continue flying...

DFW_Airwolf September 15, 2022

Airlines are Corporate Country Clubs. Look at the BILLIONS they have been able to squeeze out of the Govt. They have Indoctrinated their UNIONS to help them fight as Foot Soldiers for every Corp Handout they feel they are entitled to. Maybe we just need to go back to a REGULATED Aviation Empire like we used to have. That way we know where the Billions will be spent - In Politicians Pockets like EVERYTHING

SamirD September 15, 2022

This is exactly why you never give private companies money for a 'bailout'.  The way capitalism works, they would have still been around, swallowed up by someone else who would do it better.

twowheela September 15, 2022

Once again the Biden Administration taking credit for something that was already in place.  

DrMilano September 13, 2022

The $21 billion in refunds is misleading, how much did governments provide the airlines back in 2020 under the premise to prevent the current circus?  The airlines can go cry me a river.  The IATA is delusional for requesting additional protection.  If the IATA member airlines didn't behavior like an illegal cartel, such as denial of EU216/2004 compensation and always aiming for the angle like a rat to weasel out of honest customer service recovery.  This is what happens when the public has had enough of being treated pooorly by airline executives who feel they are above the law.