Making airlines pay up when flights are delayed or canceled

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Never mind luxury travel, now some airline passengers pay extra just for the basics. But getting your money back when a flight gets canceled or significantly delayed is one effort the Biden’s administration’s Transportation Department has tried to address as part of a new tough stance on the airline industry, especially after multiple instances of air travel gone awry.

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Article Contents

The move

The Department of Transportation has introduced a series of proposals to help strengthen consumer protections for airline passengers, including a requirement that airlines give a cash refund after a flight is canceled instead of providing vouchers for a future flight. This would also apply to flights canceled because of events outside the airline’s control such as weather. Other rules proposed during the Biden administration include giving passengers more clarity about fees added on to the price of a flight before purchasing a ticket, and urging airlines to seat families together without extra fees.

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The impact

Some airlines have responded to the increasing pressure by proactively canceling overscheduled flights, building in more buffer room to better handle hiccups, making it easier for passengers to change their plans and committing to meal or hotel voucher plans. The Transportation Department also created a dashboard, acting as a consumer “cheat sheet” as a way to force airlines to answer directly exactly what services they offer — which customers can then compare — when a flight is canceled or delayed. Separately, DOT is investigating several airlines for potentially engaging in unrealistic scheduling practices that have led to cascading problems that impact travelers.

The upshot

The Biden administration has taken some significant steps to compensate passengers when flights get disrupted. But preventing those disruptions in the first place remains problematic.



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