The Transportation Department said it was proposing a rule that would require airlines to provide cash payments to passengers for significant flight disruptions.
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The airline industry has come under intense scrutiny after a string of woes, including a slew of recent flight disruptions and an operational meltdown at Southwest Airlines.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced on Monday that it would seek to require airlines to compensate passengers for extensive flight delays and cancellations.
The proposed rule would require airlines to provide cash payments rather than merely refunds for significant travel disruptions that were within the airline’s control. No airline currently guarantees cash compensation for delays or cancellations in the United States, according to the Transportation Department.
“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, said in a statement. “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.”
Mr. Buttigieg and President Biden are scheduled to hold an event at the White House on Monday afternoon to promote the plan.
The airline industry has come under intense scrutiny after a string of woes, including a slew of recent flight disruptions as travelers return to the skies after the height of the coronavirus pandemic. In December, a winter storm led to an operational meltdown at Southwest Airlines, stranding passengers during the holiday travel season.
The proposed rule adds to Mr. Buttigieg’s efforts to push the airline industry to improve customer experience. During his tenure, the Transportation Department has imposed millions of dollars in fines on airlines for a number of violations, including for issues related to customer refunds, though some critics have pushed for him to take a harder line with the industry.
In September, the department rolled out an online dashboard showing travelers what services they are entitled to if their flights are delayed or canceled. Mr. Buttigieg has credited the creation of the dashboard with pushing airlines to improve their policies toward consumers.
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