The Department of Transportation will launch a new web feature on Sept. 2 designed to provide air travelers with easy-to-access comparative information on the services that airlines offer when they are responsible for flight delays and cancellations.
The dashboard will be housed within the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection website, DOT secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in letters to the CEOs of U.S. airlines on Thursday. Its information will be based upon the commitments made by carriers in their customer service plans.
“I urge you to take this opportunity to assess your Customer Service Plan to ensure that it guarantees adequate services and amenities to help passengers with expenses and inconveniences due to delays and cancellations,” Buttigieg wrote to the CEOs. “The department asks that airlines, at a minimum, provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport because of disruptions within the carrier’s control.”
The letter is the latest step in a pressure campaign the DOT is mounting against airlines, which have struggled this spring and summer.
Early this month, in what is arguably its most significant recent action, the DOT put forward a proposal that would require airlines to offer refunds when they delay domestic flights for three hours or longer or delay international flights for six hours or longer.
According to FlightAware, so far this year U.S. airlines have canceled 2.6% of flights and delayed 21.3%, up from a 2.1% cancellation rate and 17.2% delay percentage during the same period in 2019.
Poor operations led U.S. airlines to reduce their summer capacity by a cumulative 16% compared with earlier plans. Carriers have also ramped up staffing, leading U.S. airline employment to reach a record high in June.
In his letter, Buttigieg acknowledged those efforts, but said they haven’t been enough.
“Still, the level of disruption that Americans have experienced this summer is unacceptable,” he said.
Consumer advocates say Buttigieg should be taking stronger measures to reign in airlines.
“Even after a summer tsunami of cancellations, routes closures, rising airfares and sheer neglect for existing regulations, Secretary Buttigieg is still treating airlines like business partners instead of using his authority to enforce the law,” said Bill McGee, senior fellow for aviation and travel at the American Economic Liberties Project.
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