Biden wants airlines to go the extra mile in compensating travelers for delays and cancellations

The Biden administration seeks better compensation for travelers affected by airline delays and cancellations in a further strengthening of air passengers’ protections.Read more……

The Biden administration seeks better compensation for travelers affected by airline delays and cancellations in a further strengthening of air passengers’ protections.

Last fall, the US Department of Transportation proposed a rule, set to be finalized this year, which would require airlines to show customers the full ticket price, including all potential fees, ahead of purchase. The next step is figuring out reimbursements for when things go haywire. Currently, when an airline cancels or delays a flight, it must refund customers the price of their ticket, but not the cost of meals, hotels, or transportation a customer may experience as a consequence of travel disruption.

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The Biden administration plans to close that gap by proposing “a historic new rule” that will make it mandatory for all US airlines to compensate passengers for the various costs incurred as a consequence of cancellations or delays for which the airline is responsible. “And that’s all on top of refunding the cost of your ticket,” president Joe Biden announced yesterday (May 8), adding that “Your time matters. The impact on your life matters.”

The US government is taking a page out of Canada’s and the European Union’s playbooks, where airline travelers are already entitled to these compensations. “And guess what? It works,” Biden said.

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Role model: EU airline compensation rules

Consumer protection rules in the EU, in place in 27 countries and Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, have been in place since as early as 2005 under the EU261 regulation. The rules dictate that, as long as the flight wasn’t derailed by extenuating circumstances such as weather, airlines must offer:

  • assistance (meal, telephone calls and accommodation if necessary)
  • the choice between either being reimbursed within seven days (and, if necessary, a free flight to the initial point of departure) or being rerouted or continuing their journey as soon as possible, or at a mutually agreed later date, and
  • an immediate predetermined sum in compensation, roughly pegged at €250 ($274) for flights under 1,500 km (932 miles) that are delayed for more than two hours, €400 for flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km delayed for more than three hours, and €600 for flights longer than 3,500 km delayed for more than four hours.

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For airlines that downgrade travelers, the carrier must reimburse the passenger 30% of the ticket price for flights of 1,500 km or less, 50% for flights of between 1,500 and 3,500 km, and 75% for flights of over 3,500 km, within seven days.

Passengers regardless of citizenship and residency, can claim these damages. And in many cases, they can retroactively seek out compensation for a few years after the flight.

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Where US airlines stand on compensation, by the digits

9: Major airlines that cover hotel costs

10: Major airlines that cover meals

10: Major airlines that rebook for free when costs could run as high as $200 per ticket

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Up to $50: How much airlines were charging per ticket just so a parent could sit next to your child. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier Airlines agreed to address family seating so parents can sit with their children without paying an additional charge

2: Airlines that guarantee additional compensation beyond the ticket refund

3.9 minutes: An average arrival delay reduction per flight regulated by EU261 because these flights are…

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5%: more likely to arrive on time, according to a 2018 study from the European University Institute

Quotable: Biden looks to lower costs for the American middle-class

“I know these things may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter most to middle-class families and people struggling to get the cost in the first place of getting that airline.” —President Joe Biden in a statement on May 8.

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Where can US travelers check eligibility for returns?

Last year, the Biden administration launched a dashboard to give travelers more transparency into airlines’ compensation policies, including rebooking a flight or accommodating your hotel room or meals. Now, the dashboard has been updated to include what additional compensation airlines are guaranteeing like cash, miles, or travel vouchers. The dashboard can be accessed on FlightsRight.gov.

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