U.S. president Joe Biden has been increasingly critical of the travel industry, cracking down on first, hidden hotel and airline booking fees like exorbitant seat selection fees, and now, the treatment of passengers whose flights have been delayed or cancelled.
As Open Jaw reported, on Monday, 08MAY, he and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg outlined proposed new legislation to protect airline passengers.
In addition to ticket refunds when a delay or cancellation is the airline’s fault, new rules would bring the U.S. closer to EU pax protection regulations, reports GlobalNews.
“Your time matters, the impact on your life matters,” Biden said during a media conference.
“I know how frustrated many of you are with the service you get from your U.S. airlines,” the U.S. president acknowledged. “That’s why our top priority has been to get American air travelers a better deal.”
In announcing new measures, he added, “You deserve more than just getting the price of your ticket (refunded) _ you deserve to be fully compensated.”
The announcement indicated that the Transportation Department was working on drafting new rules that would ensure that air travellers stranded for reasons within an airline’s control - including mechanical issues or lack of a crew - would be compensated for their meals and hotel rooms. It’s not known how long that will take or when the new rules would take effect.
Currently in the U.S., none of the major airlines offer compensation for delays or cancellations within their control, although a couple do offer miles or travel credits. That’s according to an online dashboard launched by the U.S. DoT following travel chaos in 2022 to publicize to consumers airline policies on refunds and compensation.
The Biden administration credits the dashboard with “pushing the 10 largest U.S. airlines to promise to provide cash or vouchers for meals when a carrier-caused cancellation forces passengers to wait at least three hours for another flight. Nine of the 10 — all but Frontier Airlines — also promise under those circumstances to pay for accommodations for passengers stranded overnight.”
Under the proposed new rules, that compensation would not be voluntary for airlines.
By comparison, new passenger protection laws recently proposed by the Canadian government appear to be even more stringent in some ways.
As Open Jaw reported 25APR, the Liberal government's proposed updates to air passenger protection rules will provide automatic compensation for delayed or cancelled flights whether the cause is within an airline’s control or not.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that the new rules see the onus shift to airlines to compensate pax for delays or cancellations except under very few circumstances, like severe snowstorms.
"It will no longer be the passenger who will have to prove that he or she is entitled to compensation. It will now be the airline that will need to prove that it does not have to pay for it," Alghabra announced.
Airlines operating in Canada also can no longer claim to be exempted from compensation requirements for 'safety' reasons.
"This means there will be no more loopholes where airlines can claim a disruption is caused by something outside of their control or a security reason when it is not," Alghabra said.
In addition, the proposed new rules will mean airlines could be charged fees if a pax complaint remains unresolved and ends up at the CTA for resolution.
The proposed new rules increase maximum airline fines 10 times - up to $250,000 for violating the rules - and come much closer to European passenger rights laws.