President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will unveil a proposal Monday that would require airlines to compensate passengers for major flight delays and cancellations.
The proposed rule would only apply to cancellations and delays within airlines’ control and would require airlines to provide passengers with refunds and compensation, as well as meals, lodging and rebooking for passengers stranded by delays.
The administration will also mandate “timely customer service” when airlines face widespread cancellations, a proposal clearly targeting incidents like Southwest Airlines’ now infamous holiday season from hell, when stranded customers complained that they were missing basic information could get.
The proposal is the latest step Buttigieg and the government have taken to crack down on what many progressives see as an overly concentrated airline industry prone to consumer abuse.
“If an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers shouldn’t foot the bill,” Buttigieg said in a statement announcing the proposal. “This rule would, for the first time in US history, propose requiring airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses such as meals, hotels and rebookings in cases where the airline caused a cancellation or significant delay.”
Progressives have previously argued Buttigieg has not done enough to fight the airlines, which boast terrifying DC lobbying, even as the airline trade group has begun to roll back Buttigieg’s criticism.
Biden and Buttigieg will appear together at the White House on Monday afternoon to introduce the proposal.
Similar regulations requiring compensation for delays already exist in Canada and the European Union, where there is evidence that they have improved airline punctuality. An important part of the rule’s development will likely be defining when a cancellation or delay is within the airlines’ control.
The administration is also adding information about whether an airline offers compensation for delayed or canceled flights to a dashboard on FlightRights.gov, which the administration has used to name and shame airlines into offering more consumer protections.
After Biden called for new law banning airlines from charging parents and children additional fees for sitting next to each other during his State of the Union address in February, three airlines passed policies waiving such fees.
Even if Congress doesn’t pass such legislation, the Department of Transportation is working to finalize a proposal to eliminate the toll. The DOT has also proposed rules that would require airlines to provide advance notice of fees for checked baggage or for changing or canceling your flight, and another rule that would require airlines to refund passengers if services they paid for have, like the WLAN access, do not work.