USDOT proposes airline requirements for stranded passenger compensation

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On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its plans to require airlines to compensate stranded passengers in proposed new rulemaking.

As part of the new rules, airlines would be required to compensate passengers who are stranded whenever airlines cause disruptions and pay for amenities like meals, hotels, and rebooking flights. The new rulemaking proposal comes after a two-year push by the DOT to improve passengers’ experiences.

The DOT said 10 airlines guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline, while nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the DOT’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard. On Monday, the DOT expanded the dashboard to highlight which airlines currently offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers or award frequent flyer miles due to flight delays or cancellations. The new planned rulemaking would make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “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 planned rulemaking would address not only defining what a controllable airline cancellation or significant delay is but would also provide guidelines on compensating passengers for those delays; providing a meal or meal voucher, overnight accommodations, ground transportation to and from the hotel, and rebooking flights; and providing timely customer service during and after widespread flight irregularities.

The department said the new rulemaking would protect passengers from financial loss when an airline experiences controllable delays and cancellations. The new rulemaking would also improve airline on-time performance, the department said.