Airline accountability in focus as White House works on regulations to safeguard passengers
CHICAGO - In a move to protect passengers, the White House is working on new regulations that would require airlines to pay-up for certain flight delays and cancelations.
The proposed policies, however, would not apply to flight changes caused by the weather.
"Weather remains the top cause of airline delays, but staffing and other issues under airlines’ responsibilities meant that last summer we saw unacceptable rates of delays and cancelations, even on blue sky days," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The Biden administration is pushing ahead with new rules that could mean major refunds for travelers experiencing headaches at the airport.
The new regulations haven't been written yet, but if approved, could lead to compensation for flights canceled or delayed because of mechanical problems, lack of crew, and other preventable issues.
"I know how frustrated many of you are with the service you receive from your U.S. airlines," said President Joe Biden on Monday.
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President Biden addressed airline accountability and announced the launch of a new website – flightrights.gov – with the goal to offer transparency about airlines’ compensation policies.
"Getting this right is going to be tricky but we know there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the situation at the airports right now," said Joe Schwieterman, aviation expert, DePaul University.
The new policies would safeguard passengers from delays and cancelations that are within the airline's control.
The rules would also require airlines to compensate their customers for other travel expenses, including meals, Ubers, and hotels.
This comes several months after a nightmare at Chicago Midway International Airport during a Southwest Airlines meltdown that left customers stranded for days.
"When extreme weather events collided with airlines that were unprepared, the problems multiplied, as more than 2 million Americans experienced with the failures at Southwest Airlines over the last Christmas holiday," said Buttigieg.
Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University, says airlines will likely fight this and if it goes through, customers could see higher ticket prices up-front as a result.
"The real devil's in the detail," said Schwieterman. "There's a lot of concern that the fees may be so large, it could add to ticket prices or force airlines to really cut back their schedules a bit."
Meanwhile, Airlines for America, which represents major U.S. carriers, says airlines have no incentive to delay or cancel flights, arguing that more than half of cancelations and delays in recent years have been caused by extreme weather or air traffic control outages.