New regulations may change the way airlines compensate travelers affected by cancellations and delays, as Biden proposes protections.
Last year, over 2% of all flights in the U.S. were canceled, meaning one in every fifty travelers faced having to navigate the complicated process of refunds and rescheduling, along with having their travel plans ruined. Some airlines were notorious for being difficult to get refunds from.
This year, the rate has fallen to 1.6% of flights canceled, but delays have increased and gotten longer, according to tracking agencies. The major airlines have said weather conditions account for most cancellations, but the federal Government Accountability Office lays the blame on the airlines themselves, either due to poorly-maintained technology or staffing shortages.
Currently, when an airline cancels a flight for any reason, consumers can demand a refund of the unused part of their ticket and certain extras that they might have paid to the airline, such as fees for checking a bag or getting a seat assignment. Airlines often try to pressure consumers to accept a travel voucher instead of a refund, and there is no compensation guarantee for anything else the travel disruption might have cost the traveler, like performance tickets or having to get an unexpected hotel room.
“I know how frustrated many of you are with the service you get from your U.S. airlines,” President Biden said in a statement on Monday. “That’s why our top priority has been to get American air travelers a better deal.”
Biden added, “You deserve more than just getting the price of your ticket (refunded) — you deserve to be fully compensated. Your time matters, the impact on your life matters.”
The Biden administration is going to be writing new regulations to require airlines to compensate, not just refund, stranded travelers whenever an airline is at fault for a cancellation or significant delay. Those protections will be similar to what is available in the European Union.