Airlines oppose U.S. push on flight delay compensation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Major U.S. airlines are rejecting plans by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to update a government dashboard to show whether airlines will voluntarily compensate passengers for long delays within airline control, a trade group said told Reuters on Friday.

This is the department’s latest attempt to get the airline industry to voluntarily pledge to provide compensation and other benefits to passengers affected by flight problems. Airlines and USDOT have clashed over the summer over who is to blame for tens of thousands of flight delays and cancellations.

A senior USDOT attorney who deals with aviation consumer protection issues has emailed major airlines asking for a response by Monday on whether they commit to providing $100, frequent flyer miles or air travel vouchers for delays of three hours or more , when the delays are the airline’s fault. according to three people briefed on the matter.

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USDOT also wants airlines to commit to compensating consumers for canceled flights if it results in a delay of at least three hours. The department then plans to publish the findings on a government dashboard it released last month, the sources said. USDOT also asked airlines to commit to rebooking passengers on non-partner airlines.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing United Airlines (UAL.O), American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) and other major airlines, said Friday, it is the previously unreported plan.

USDOT’s “requirement would simply increase the cost of travel for everyone and goes beyond the scope and intent of the dashboard by proposing punitive measures rather than offering improvements in transparency that would benefit the consumer.”

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The group added that USDOT’s approach fails to recognize the significant advances made by airlines, nor the impact of weather and air traffic control on flight delays.

There is no legal obligation for airlines to compensate US passengers for delayed flights, but Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told airlines in August USDOT was considering new rules to expand passenger rights. He has been pressured by Congress and attorneys general to do more to ensure airlines treat consumers properly.

Asked about the planned dashboard update, a USDOT spokesman said, “We will continue to support the traveling public and work to increase transparency so Americans know exactly what airlines are offering when they experience a cancellation or delay.” “

In August, after USDOT announced it would rate airlines on the new dashboard, major airlines updated their written customer service plans to say they would provide meals for three-hour delays and hotel rooms for stranded passengers if problems caused the airlines to control them would be caused. Many airlines previously offered meal vouchers or hotel rooms for delays they caused, but made no commitments in customer service plans.

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President Joe Biden said last month his administration had cracked down on US airlines to improve the treatment of passengers, citing the dashboard – a claim the airlines have dismissed.

According to USDOT, the dashboard received 400,000 page views over Labor Day weekend.

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Reporting by David Shepardson Edited by Chris Reese and Josie Kao

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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