During a summer of sweeping travel-related chaos, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has just launched a new website to better arm travelers with information on what they’re owed for flight cancellations and delays.
On September 1, the DOT released an interactive dashboard on its Aviation Consumer Protection website, ahead of the historically busy Labor Day weekend.
The tool is meant to help travelers find easy-to-read, comparative information on what kind of refunds or compensation their airline when there is a cancellation or delay, per a letter Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent to the 10 largest U.S. airlines in mid-August. The dashboard compares all the major domestic airlines’ policies on issues such as which offer meals for delays of more than three hours and which offer to rebook flights on the same or different airlines at no additional charge. It focuses on what it calls “controllable” cancellations or delays — meaning those caused by mechanical issues, staffing shortages or delays in cleaning, fueling or baggage handling. Delays or cancellations caused by weather or security concerns do not count.
The dashboard is part of an extended pressure campaign from Buttigieg, who has publicly challenged the major carriers to improve service and transparency after a summer marred by cancellations and flight delays.
Buttigieg called the level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer “unacceptable.” He also cited data for the first half of 2022, noting that 24 percent of flights originating in the United States had been delayed and another 3.2 percent had been canceled. The new tool, Buttigieg said in a statement, will help travelers to “easily understand their rights, compare airline practices, and make informed decisions.”
Current DOT rules require domestic airlines to offer customers refunds for canceled flights—although what customers are owed for delayed flights hasn’t always been easy to discern (even though the information is federally required to be a part of airlines’ Customer Service Plans).
“When passengers do experience cancellations and delays, they deserve clear and transparent information on the services that your airline will provide, to address the expenses and inconveniences resulting from these disruptions,” Buttigieg said.
At a minimum, the DOT asks that airlines provide meal vouchers for delays of more than three hours and lodging for passengers who have to wait overnight at an airport because of disruptions within a carrier’s control.
“Regardless of the cause of the delays or cancellations, the Department expects airlines to provide timely and responsive customer service during and after periods of flight disruptions,” Buttigieg said.
The Associated Press contributed to this reporting.