DALLAS — US President Joe Biden has announced that he wants to implement a new rule for compensating airline passengers who are impacted by cancellations or flight delays.
The new rule would make airlines pay passengers who are impacted additional compensation beyond the ticket refund if the cancellation or delays if the airline is responsible for the disruption. This could include paying for meals and hotels if passengers are stranded. If these new rules are implemented, it would be the first in the United States.
On Monday, May 8, President Biden, along with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, announced the new rule at a press conference at the White House. Secretary Buttigieg said that the rules would make sure that passengers do not pay the bill if the travel disruptions are the airline’s fault. While some US carriers offer travel credits or vouchers when flights are delayed or canceled, the new rule would make refunds and additional passenger compensation mandatory.
In the summer of 2022, the US Department of Transportation started an online dashboard that compared each airline’s compensation policies to force the airlines to increase compensation policies essentially. Because of this, many US airlines paid for meals and hotel rooms for travelers facing cancellations or delays that were in the airline’s control.
Response from A4A, IATA
Airline for America (A4A), which represents the biggest US airlines, responded to the announcement by stating over half of the cancellations in 2023 and 2022 were a result of weather or air traffic control outages.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) criticized the decision by the Biden Administration and the US Department of Transportation. In a statement, the IATA said that nine of the ten largest US airlines already offer meals and vouchers during delays and that nine of them give travelers complimentary hotel rooms who are affected by an overnight cancellation.
Furthermore, it stated that the rule might create expectations that are unrealistic and will not be met as the new rule would not cover most cancellations because the weather is the reason for a majority of cancellations and delays.
IATA Director General Willie Walsh commented, “Airlines work hard to get their passengers to their destinations on time and do their best to minimize the impacts of any delays. Airlines already have financial incentives to get their passengers to their destinations as planned. Managing delays and cancellations is very costly for airlines. And passengers can take their loyalty to other carriers if they are not satisfied with service levels.
The head of IATA warned that “the added layer of expense that this regulation will impose will not create a new incentive, but it will have to be recouped –which is likely to have an impact on ticket prices.”
Featured image: American Airlines and other US airlines capped their fares to help travelers during the holiday travel chaos. Photo: Luke Ayers/Airways