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| 1 minute read

U.S. Transportation Department announces consumer protection rule for airline delays and cancellations

On May 8, 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced plans for a proposed rule to protect passengers when an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay. According to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, “passengers should not foot the bill.” According to the DOT statement, the new rule would require airlines to “cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels and rebooking when airlines are responsible for stranding passengers.”

The rulemaking plan focuses on instances of a “controllable cancellation or delay,” a term which would be defined under the rulemaking. In instances of a “controllable cancellation or delay”, the rulemaking would address: compensation for passengers, meals, overnight accommodations, hotel transportation and rebooking. The rule would also help ensure “timely” customer service when significant flight irregularities occur.

Airline associations, for their part, have addressed consumer protection proposals in the past, emphasizing that passenger airlines have been and remain responsive to customers’ refund interests. Moreover, the airline associations have previously supported an agreement with regulators regarding the definition of a “significant delay” and have made recommendations accordingly.

This rulemaking plan was announced in tandem with updates to DOT’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard, which we previously covered. Updates to the DOT’s Dashboard include details about the types of compensation airlines currently guarantee when the airline causes a cancellation or delay. Specifically, the dashboard now includes information relating to, (1) cash compensation, (2) travel credits/voucher, and (3) frequent flier miles for instances when a passenger waits three or more hours from the scheduled departure time (caused by the airline).

Back in January, we brought you an update about increasing consumer complaints resulting from a variety of widespread delays and cancellations. Today’s new rulemaking announcement demonstrates a continued focus by the Biden Administration on consumer protections in the commercial aviation industry, and it is possible that today’s announcement could be an attempt by the Biden Administration to proactively addressing issues that may arise from the upcoming busy summer travel season.

According to the DOT, the new rule, if adopted, would require airlines to cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels and rebooking.


aviation, consumer protections, transportation