On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its most concrete effort yet to fix air travel. This is an online dashboard featuring 10 US airlines with green checkmarks next to the services they offer when flights are delayed or canceled for controllable reasons. The website is reminiscent of the sort of brand comparison charts provided by Consumer Reports magazine, but JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines, for example, could, in some circumstances, fly to another airline when a flight was cancelled. Southwest Airlines and Alaska have made it clear they will rebook passengers, but they won’t.
White House and Department of Transportation officials say the idea of an interactive dashboard alone forced airlines to make drastic changes in just two weeks. Ahead of the launch, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg sent a letter urging airlines to take a number of measures, including hotel vouchers. He also said he plans to review it in November, along with a proposal he made last month to update federal guidelines on refunds, and said he was “considering” making new rules.
“Today, the Department of Transportation officially unveiled its dashboard. I was.
Given other types of proposals in circulation, it would fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for cancellations due to staffing. Adopting a European approach, requiring airlines to pay travelers hundreds of dollars for some of the canceled flights. Reassigning airline crackdowns to state attorneys general — the chart may seem like a small step. Here’s how to understand its impact:
What actually changed?
Depends who you ask. A lot has changed, according to the White House, the Department of Transportation and some consumer advocates.
Jean-Pierre said until a few weeks ago, none of the major airlines had promised to pay for meals and lodging if they were responsible for flight cancellations or significant delays. Currently there are 8 cover hotels and he includes 9 cover meals. At a background briefing on Wednesday, government officials said no airline had offered free ground transportation to hotels for passengers stranded overnight. Seven companies have pledged to do so, and many have changed policies on rebooking passengers on other airlines, they said. Officials praised the airline for changing so quickly.
But according to the airline, not much has changed. Most said they only tweaked some language to more clearly describe policies already in place. American Airlines and Delta said in response to Buttigieg’s letter that they have clarified rules regarding when passengers will receive compensation for canceled or delayed flights. However, they said they have not made any substantive policy changes and are already offering hotel vouchers, meal vouchers, and rebooking on other airlines if they are unable to provide reasonable alternatives. United Airlines said it had reduced the delay time required for meal vouchers by one hour, but said other policies had not changed.Southwest said it had not made any substantive changes, It said it has updated its customer service plan to better reflect existing policies.
On the ground transportation front, a Delta representative said it was misleading for the Department of Transportation to credit the change because Delta had always provided compensation for taxi services. said it was “United’s long-standing policy” to offer such transportation.
“Maybe DOT means it wasn’t spelled to their liking on the previously published website?” a United spokesperson wrote.
The Department of Transportation said airlines provided some of these policies, but many had not previously committed to them in an enforceable manner. The company did not guarantee that travelers would be provided with vouchers, but stated that it would only use “best efforts” or “reasonable efforts” to provide vouchers.
Has the airline already committed to rebooking a competitor’s flight if the original flight is significantly delayed for reasons within the airline’s control?
Several major airlines have said they have committed to rebooking flights with another airline, though it is unclear how often they have done this amid the travel disruptions of the pandemic. Paul Hudson, president of Flyersrights.org, a nonprofit dedicated to consumer rights, said that in the last few decades, airlines typically fly one of the traditional airlines as an “A-list airline.” He said he was only doing this for “travelers”. In 2016, Mr. Hudson’s group petitioned the Department of Transportation to formally enact “reciprocity rules,” which have been voluntary since 1978, but failed.
“This is a big deal,” he said, referring to the fact that major airlines are now pledging to book passengers on other airlines, as well as guaranteeing hotel and meal vouchers. Hudson said airlines will only rebook on another airline if they can’t offer a reasonable alternative on their own.
What if the airline doesn’t offer what’s on the chart?
It seems hoped that publicizing airline promises will increase the likelihood that airlines will keep their promises. Buttigieg was more positive in his language when asked in a recent phone interview whether he was embarrassing airlines to do the right thing.
“There is no shame in doing the right thing,” he said. He also called the dashboard a “tool for transparency” — Jean-Pierre said the goal was “to give Americans more transparency about what airlines owe them.” Words reflected in the announcement of
If the airline doesn’t meet the commitments on the chart, the Department of Transportation said passengers can file complaints. Of course, it doesn’t help immediately.
Airlines often offer credits in lieu of refunds. Will airlines automatically issue cash refunds if the Department of Transportation’s August policy proposal passes?
No. The proposal aims to clarify the conditions under which travelers must receive a full refund instead of a credit or voucher if flights are substantially changed. Such changes include his 3-hour delay for domestic flights, his 6-hour delay for international flights, additional connections, changes in departure or destination airports.
The proposal, which Buttigieg will review in November, currently does not provide for automatic refunds if passengers choose to cancel instead of flying. Some airlines may choose to interpret it this way if it becomes a federal requirement. There may be.
Can airlines make radical changes without fines or stricter rules?
Airlines have already made major changes to schedules and staffing, which they say is improving as a result, with cancellations dropping significantly in recent weeks. , arguing that airlines are implicitly incentivized to cancel less, given that cancellations are costly and cause major headaches.
But nearly 40 state attorneys general don’t think so. Just as transportation officials were holding a press conference about their recent success in changing airlines, the attorney general said the ministry’s approach was so weak that it should be stripped of its ability to regulate aviation. Instead, state attorneys general, and perhaps another federal agency, should be given that role, they wrote.
In a follow-up email, New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella, one of the people who signed the letter, provided an interactive dashboard review. “Will the new dashboard give paying air customers a timeline of when the Secretary of Transportation and his colleagues will start enforcing the law and providing basic consumer protections?” he wrote. rice field.
A week before the dashboard’s release, Buttigieg said he was open to imposing fines on airlines, saying fines are “an important part of our toolkit.”
How much money did airlines get from the government during the pandemic?
Since the pandemic began, Congress has provided passenger airlines with $54 billion in grants to pay workers, and billions more in loans. This support, along with widespread layoffs and restrictions such as a temporary ban on share buybacks, helped the industry weather a long slowdown before this year’s recovery picked up sustained momentum.
This spring and summer, travel is particularly popular. Each of the six major US airlines reported record earnings in the second quarter of this year, which ended in June. The airlines also reported their first quarterly earnings without federal support since the pandemic began. But those profits were far from breaking records as the industry faced rising costs on everything from in-flight meals to labor costs.