DOT Proposes New Law Requiring Airlines To Cover Expenses, Compensate Stranded Passengers

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced plans to launch a new rulemaking that is aimed at requiring airlines to provide compensation and cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels, and rebooking when airlines are responsible for stranding passengers.

After a two-year DOT push to improve the passenger experience, the ten largest airlines in the United States guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard.

DOT launched a new website – – that features an Airline Customer Service dashboard to give travelers more transparency into airlines’ compensation policies. It highlights which airlines currently offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations.

DOT’s planned rulemaking would make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight disruptions.

“So, if it’s the airline’s fault and your flight was cancelled or delayed, you can check the dashboard to see how the airline should be compensating you, like rebooking a flight or accommodating your hotel room or — and your meals,” President Biden said while speaking about Airline Accountability at the White House.

“And today, we’ve expanded that dashboard to include airlines guaranteeing an additional compensation like cash, miles, or travel vouchers,” he added.

“Later this year, my administration will propose a historic new rule that will make it mandatory, not voluntary — but mandatory for all U.S. airlines to compensate you with meals, hotels, taxis, ride shares, and rebooking fees, and cash, miles, and/or travel vouchers whenever they are the ones to blame for the cancellation or delay. And that’s all on top of refunding the cost of your ticket,” Biden said.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This rule would, for the first time in U.S. history, propose to require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses such as meals, hotels, and rebooking in cases where the airline has caused a cancellation or significant delay,” he added.

The planned rulemaking is aimed at addressing compensation for passengers when there is a controllable airline cancellation or significant delay; A meal or meal voucher, overnight accommodations, ground transportation to and from the hotel, and rebooking for controllable delays or cancellations; Timely customer service during and after periods of widespread flight irregularities; and Definition of a controllable cancellation or delay.

The following categories were added to Commitments for Controllable Cancellations and Controllable Delays: Cash compensation when cancellation or delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more from the scheduled departure time; Travel credit/voucher when cancellation or delay results in passenger waiting for 3 hours or more for scheduled departure time; and Frequent flyer miles when cancellation or delay results in passenger waiting for 3 hours or more for a flight from the scheduled departure time.

Currently, one airline guarantees frequent flyer miles, and two airlines guarantee travel credits or vouchers as compensation if passengers experience significant delays or cancellations that are caused by something within the airline’s control, such as a mechanical issue. No airline guarantees cash compensation when an airline issue causes the significant delay or cancellation.

The Department’s rulemaking proposes to ensure that passengers experiencing controllable delays and cancellations are better protected from financial losses than is the case today. The Department plans to define “controllable cancellation and delay” in this rulemaking.

The Department of Transportation said in a press release that it believes that this rulemaking could result in improved airline on-time performance.

Airline passengers in many countries, including Canada and the European Union, already get these compensations.

One study found that after the European Union required airlines to compensate passengers for flight delays, the number of flight delays went down.

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