Home » Biden Pushing Airlines to go Beyond Refunds for Delayed or Canceled Flights

Biden Pushing Airlines to go Beyond Refunds for Delayed or Canceled Flights

President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg want to require more generous passenger compensation from airlines who cancel or delay flights, the latest effort by the administration to improve the flying experience ahead of a busy summer travel season.

On Monday the Transportation Department will propose a rule that would require airlines to go beyond refunds when airlines delay or cancel a flight — such as offering a meal or meal voucher, overnight accommodations, ground transportation to and from the hotel, and rebooking along with timely customer service.

DOT will also announce an expanded Airline Customer Service Dashboard that shows which airlines currently offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles and cover the costs for hotels and other amenities. The White House said that the new website will show “that virtually no airlines offer compensation on top of refunds or amenities.”

The White House said the expanded website will show that only one airline guarantees frequent flyer miles, and that two airlines guarantee travel credits or vouchers as compensation if passengers experience significant delays or cancelations that are caused by something within the airline’s control such as a mechanical issue. Zero airlines guarantee cash compensation for preventable delays and cancellations.

Biden and Buttigieg will officially announce the new effort at an appearance at the White House on Monday. The White House noted that three airlines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines and American Airlines, announced commitments to provide fee-free family seating after Biden included family seating fees as part of his attack on “junk fees” in this year’s State of the Union.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “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.”

Airlines for America, a trade association representing major U.S. airlines, said they “look forward to working with the administration to ensure U.S. airspace remains the safest airspace in the world while supporting robust marketplace competition that provides transparency and vast options for consumers.”

They also noted that the majority of canceled flights between August of last year and February, about two-thirds, are attributable to weather and air traffic control issues that airlines are not responsible for.

Background: The announcement is another push by the White House to get ahead of a summer travel season that is predicted to exceed pre-pandemic travel levels in 2019.

Late last year, Southwest Airlines’ holiday meltdown stranded tens of thousands of passengers and prompted calls from Buttigieg and lawmakers to make travelers whole. Southwest responded by doling out rewards points and spending millions on hotels and other expenses for passengers who were stranded for days, though Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is pushing the airline to make public how many customers applied for reimbursements for ancillary expenses but were rejected.

Federal law does not require airlines to compensate passengers for flight delays. If a flight is canceled, a passenger can choose to receive a refund.