0 min left

White House and Transportation Department Take Aim on Customer Protections

U.S. Department of Transportation Building

A new initiative from the Transportation Department aims to introduce consumer protections similar to those in the European Union, including compensation for delayed flights.
Following a push for more aviation consumer protections, President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a plan to introduce new reforms for stranded passengers.


The White House and Department of Transportation announced the plans during a press event on Monday, May 8, 2023.


Suggested Rules Include Compensation for Stranded Flyer Expenses

Since coming into office, both President Biden and Transportation Secretary Buttigieg made improving the passenger experience a priority. Biden specifically cited the government assistance given to airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic as a major part of flyer frustration.


“I know how frustrated many of you are with the service you get from your U.S. airlines, especially after you, the American taxpayer, stepped up in 2020, in the last administration, in the early days of the pandemic, to provide nearly $50 billion of assistance to keep the airline industry and its employees afloat,” Biden said in prepared remarks. “That’s why our top priority has been to get American air travelers a better deal.”


Alongside proposing enforcement actions for poor performance and creating a passenger rights dashboard, the suggested rules would extend compensation rights to certain travelers. Under the proposal, airlines would be required to compensate passengers for a “controllable airline cancellation or significant delay,” including with meal vouchers and overnight accommodations where applicable. However, the suggestion falls short of the European Union’s EC261/2004 regulation, which requires airlines to pay flyers for significant delays.


“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” 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 such as meals, hotels, and rebooking in cases where the airline has caused a cancellation or significant delay.”


The new rulemaking effort is currently in the working phase, with no formal proposal currently submitted for public comment.


Trade Groups Cite Safety for Delays and Cancellations

While the suggested rules are part of a push towards improved consumer rights, the aviation industry is pushing back against them. In a statement, trade group Airlines for America cite the need for safety as the reason for delaying and cancelling flights.


“U.S. airlines are fiercely competitive and focus every day on customer service because they want repeat travelers,” the statement reads. “U.S. airlines have no incentive to delay or cancel a flight and do everything in their control to ensure flights depart and arrive on time—but safety is always the top priority. We have the safest air travel system in the world because we never compromise on safety.”


The International Air Transport Association, which called for fewer regulations in 2022, made similar remarks, claiming that “punitive regulations like this have no impact on the level of flight delays and cancellations.”


“The regulation could raise unrealistic expectations among travelers that are unlikely to be met,” IATA director general Willie Walsh said in a statement. “Most situations would not be covered by this regulation as weather is responsible for the bulk of air travel delays and flight cancellations.”


Share your thoughts on the suggested regulations on the FlyerTalk Forums.


Feature image courtesy: kmf164/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0