US asks airlines to enhance help for stranded, delayed passengers

The level of disruption experienced by travelers this summer, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, is “unacceptable,” and the 10 largest U.S. airlines have been encouraged to do more to assist stranded and delayed passengers.

Buttigieg has fought with major U.S. airlines over who is to blame for tens of thousands of flight delays and cancellations this summer, under pressure from American politicians who want airlines to provide better service or face harsh fines.

Buttigieg stated that his agency (USDOT) is “contemplating alternatives” to establish new rules “that would further broaden the rights of airline passengers” in letters to the CEOs of major, regional, and low-cost carriers that were made public on Friday.

He asked airlines to “at a minimum” provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and housing for passengers who must wait overnight due to disruptions under the carrier’s control. He encouraged airlines to ensure adequate services for customers experiencing delays and cancellations.

Buttigieg stated, “The Department expects airlines to offer timely and responsive customer service during and after periods of flight disruptions, regardless of the reason of the delays or cancellations.

When they are at fault for delays or cancellations, the majority of U.S. airlines offer meals or hotel rooms, although they are not compelled to. Many times, passengers are unaware of airline regulations.

Airlines for America, a trade association, stated that companies will cooperate with the government to increase traveler transparency.

In a statement, the airline said: “Airlines want travelers to have a safe, seamless, and happy travel experience and are striving toward that aim every day.

Buttigieg wrote that while he recognized the efforts made by airlines to enhance customer service, the level of inconvenience American travelers have experienced this summer is “unacceptable.”

According to him, in the first six months, 3.2% of domestic flights operated by U.S. airlines were canceled and about 24% of them experienced delays. Passenger complaints to USDOT have increased dramatically this year.

By September 2, USDOT intends to build a “interactive dashboard” that would allow passengers to compare the services and facilities that the nation’s major airlines offer when a flight is canceled or delayed due to reasons beyond the control of the airline.

Before the busy July 4 travel weekend, Buttigieg met digitally with airline CEOs to put pressure on them to deliver better results and create more realistic timetables. He also claimed that the airline business is mostly to blame for the travel issues.

Airlines contend that insufficient air traffic control manpower frequently affects flights and that they have voluntarily decreased flight numbers to improve service. They have also increased employment.

According to figures supplied by the airline trade group, weather or problems with the national airspace were to blame for 63% of cancellations for the first five months of 2022.

At three major airports in the New York City area on Monday, hundreds of flights were delayed after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported staffing shortages and warned that delays could “near two hours.”

A number of new airline consumer regulations are being drafted by USDOT, including one that mandates refunds for delayed baggage. The organization issued a warning in June that it might forbid airlines from charging additional money to let young children sit adjacent to traveling relatives.

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