When an airline is responsible for stranding passengers at an airport, what should it do for those customers? Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg says it's pretty clear -- passengers deserve compensation and reimbursement for meals, hotels, and rebooking.
This week, Buttigieg’s DOT announced plans to launch a new rulemaking aimed directly at bringing that wish all the way home.
The DOT has been after this for two years, trying to reverse the trend of negative airline passenger experience and it’s got a lot to show for its efforts. The 10 largest airlines now guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard at the new FlightRights.gov. Also on the new dashboard are updated commitments airlines have made to allowing families to sit together for free.
The arm twisting that still remains
Buttigieg wants these changes to be mandatory. However, he's got some work to do because no airline has committed to offering everything the DOT wants, at least not yet.
The closest to perfect is Alaska Airlines which checks seven of the eight commitment boxes for “controllable cancellations” and JetBlue which checks six of the eight.
Dragging their feet on what the DOT wants are Frontier, which has agreed to only two of eight things the DOT is asking for, and Allegiant which has agreed to only four commitments.
The one glaring holdout that no airline has said yes to is “cash compensation when a cancelation results in passengers waiting for three hours or more from the scheduled departure time.”
Given how that commitment could become a backbreaker, the DOT’s new proposal allows for vouchers/credit, frequent flier miles, as well as cash when a cancelation or delay results in passengers waiting for three hours or more for scheduled departure time.
“When an airline causes a flight cancelation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Buttigieg said. “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 cancelation or significant delay.”
Travelers speak out on what airlines to avoid
If anyone hasn’t booked their summer travel, yet, and the DOT’s new dashboard gives them pause on a certain airline, there’s also a new survey from TheVacationer where Americans had a chance to voice their own opinion on which airlines they avoid flying on at all costs, too. Drum roll, please…
1. Spirit Airlines — 21.06%
2. Allegiant Air — 16.36%
3. American Airlines — 14.40%
4. Frontier Airlines — 14.30%
5. Delta Air Lines — 12.63%
6. JetBlue — 12.63%
7. Alaska Airlines — 10.68%
8. Southwest Airlines — 10.28%
9. United Airlines — 7.64%
10. Hawaiian Airlines — 5.48%
“This means more than one out of every five people you come across will not fly on Spirit under any circumstances,” TheVacationer’s Eric Jones said. “Based on the recent census, the 21.06% that said this equates to more than 54 million people. Having had a few bad experiences with Spirit myself, I can see why Spirit won the contest of airline Americans are most likely to avoid at all costs.”
Jones added that despite these numbers, nearly half of American adults do not avoid flying on any airline. And the reasons they give are because cost and flight dates and times are the most important factors.
“With continued inflation, there should be no surprise that nearly one-third of all American adults said the cost of the flight is most important to them regardless of the airline,” Jones added.