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DOT proposes rules to make airlines compensate stranded passengers

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The Biden administration is proposing new regulations that would require airlines to compensate customers with amenities such as hotel stays and provide free food in cases where flights are delayed or canceled. The aim is to pressure airlines to improve their customer service, particularly for instances of preventable flight delays.

The move comes following widespread disruptions in the airline industry last summer and chaotic travel during the Christmas season. More than 45,000 flights were canceled between June 1 and Aug. 31, while Southwest Airlines canceled nearly 17,000 flights in December.

This has all spurred the Department of Transportation to recommend these new rules that would, for the first time, require airlines to pay compensation beyond just a ticket refund. An April report from the congressional Government Accountability Office blamed airlines for many of these cancellations.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This rule would, for the first time in U.S. history, propose to require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses.”

The White House and the Department of Transportation are expected to release a full list of recommendations soon, which lawmakers in Congress will then weigh in on. Senate Republicans have been resistant to stricter airline regulations in the past, indicating after the Southwest holiday season meltdown that the mass cancellations may not lead to bipartisan legislation from Congress.

“Instead of rushing to regulate prices and how many drink coupons you can get, the Biden Department of Transportation should instead let the flying public vote with their feet,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is a ranking member on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The renewed discussion over delay and cancellation compensation proposals is happening as major airlines are struggling to keep not only customers satisfied, but also their own employees content.

Unionized pilots working for American and Southwest have initiated plans for a possible strike if their contract negotiations fall through, while United Airlines pilots plan to picket over their workers’ contracts the week of May 7.

These incidents have put the airline industry under the spotlight and motivated the Department of Transportation to take corrective action, particularly ahead of a this year’s anticipated busy summer travel season.

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TODAY THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS ANNOUNCING A LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AIRLINES TO CONSIDER – INCLUDING COMPENSATING CUSTOMERS WITH HOTEL STAYS AND FREE FOOD IN THE CASE THEIR FLIGHT IS DELAYED OR CANCELED.

BUT BEFORE PASSENGERS GET THEIR HOPES UP FROM TODAY’S HEADLINES –THE PROPOSED REGULATIONS ARE MORE LIKE SUGGESTIONS – AT LEAST AT THIS POINT.

THERE’S NO REAL CONCRETE RULE CHANGES – AT BEST, THE ANNOUNCEMENT COULD PRESSURE AIRLINES INTO IMPROVING CUSTOMER SERVICE –EVEN THOUGH AIRLINES AND REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS HAVE SIGNALED ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS ARE NOT THE ANSWER NEEDED TO FIX THE INDUSTRY’S UNDERLYING ISSUES.

THE CALLS FOR ACTION COME AFTER WIDESPREAD DELAYS IN THE INDUSTRY LAST SUMMER —
FOLLOWED BY CHAOTIC TRAVEL OVER CHRISTMAS.
THE INDUSTRY IS PREDICTING AN EVEN BUSIER PEAK SUMMER TRAVEL SEASON.
WITH A BUSIER SEASON, COMES MORE PASSENGERS, AND A CROWDED FLIGHT SCHEDULE, LEAVING ROOM FOR DEJA VU OF TRAVEL WOES IF DELAYS START TO DOMINO.

AIRLINES ARE ALREADY A TARGET FOR REFORM UNDER THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION.
THE TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT CRITICIZING AIRLINES NOT ONLY OVER MASS DELAYS BUT FOR CERTAIN UPCHARGES –
LIKE FOR SEATS – WHICH CAN SEPARATE FAMILIES FLYING TOGETHER.
AIRLINES HAVE ALSO FACED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF FINES SINCE BIDEN TOOK OFFICE.
HOWEVER AIRLINES ARE UNLIKELY TO IMPOSE NEW RULES ON THEMSELVES THAT WOULD JUST MAKE THEM HAVE TO PAY OUT MORE MONEY.

THE CRACKDOWN OVER DELAYS AND CANCELLATION COMPENSATION COMES AS MAJOR AIRLINES ARE STRUGGLING TO KEEP CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES HAPPY.
UNIONIZED PILOTS WHO WORK FOR AMERICAN AND SOUTHWEST HAVE INITIATED PLANS FOR A POSSIBLE STRIKE IF THEIR CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS FALL THROUGH.
THIS WEEK –UNITED PILOTS HAVE PLANS TO PICKET OVER THEIR WORKERS CONTRACTS.

AIRLINE WOES FROM MASS CANCELLATIONS, FINES, POTENTIAL WORKER STRIKES, AND A LIST OF CLOSE-CALL INCIDENTS AT AIRPORTS AROUND THE NATION HAVE THE INDUSTRY UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT —
AND THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION LOOKING TO CORRECT COURSE.
ALTHOUGH TODAY’S PROPOSED REGULATIONS HAVE NO IMMEDIATE IMPACT OR CLEAR CHANGES.