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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg gives remarks on new airline regulations the Biden administration is pursuing around delayed and cancelled flights.

Flight Delays: “Passengers Should Not Foot the Bill,” Buttigieg Says

In the EU, airlines have been required to pay cash compensation to passengers for flight delays for almost two decades. The Biden Administration thinks it’s time for a similar policy in the U.S.

If the worst element of your attendees’ meeting experience is anxiety around flight delays and cancellations, they might find solace in knowing that the White House is working to improve the situation. 

On May 8, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the start of a rule-making process to require airlines to compensate travelers when they are stranded for reasons within the airline’s control. This would be above and beyond the current practice (for most airlines) of providing meals or hotel rooms after a delay of a certain number of hours.

In the European Union, a regulation known as EU 261 has been in place since 2005, which provides compensation to passengers for flight delays. The amount of the compensation is based on the length of the flight and the length of the delay, and can be as much as 600 euros, or about $660.

As part of the announcement, the Department of Transportation’s dashboard has expanded its tracking of U.S. airline policies around delays and cancellations. It has added three new categories—cash compensation, travel credits/vouchers, and frequent-flyer miles—noting which U.S. airlines offer each type of compensation for passengers waiting three hours or more from the scheduled departure time.

At present, no U.S. airline offers cash compensation; JetBlue and Alaska offer travel credits/vouchers; and only Alaska offers frequent-flier miles.

The dashboard covers airlines’ stated policies, however, if enacted, the new DOT rules would make passenger compensation mandatory for significant flight delays and cancellations that are within the control of the airline.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” said Buttigieg. “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 cancellation or significant delay.”

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