Biden to Seek Rules for Airline Benefits to Stranded Travelers - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden plans to announce that the federal government is drafting new rules that could require airlines to provide meals, hotels and additional compensation to travelers on canceled or severely delayed flights ahead of an expected crush of summer travel.
The president will announce the effort — which will also seek to force airlines to improve the availability of customer service during periods of widespread flight delays or cancellations — at an event Monday at the White House alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The administration will also roll out a new version of a Department of Transportation website - FlightRights.gov - that shows which airlines already offer compensation to travelers experiencing delays and cancellations, according to a White House official who requested anonymity to describe the effort before it was announced.
The regulatory push comes as the Transportation Security Administration has said that it expects air travel this summer to surpass pre-pandemic levels. Airlines struggled to ramp up during last year’s summer, prompting tens of thousands of delays and cancellations. Winter travel was marked by a meltdown of Southwest Airlines Co.’s technology systems that left hundreds of thousands of travelers impacted.
The Biden Administration rolled out an initial version of the dashboard last year, which prompted the majority of US airlines to explicitly guarantee meals, rebooking services and accommodations when flights were canceled for reasons under an airline’s control. Earlier this year, the administration expanded the dashboard as part of an effort to pressure airlines to drop seat selection fees for children sitting next to accompanying adults.
Because of the changes airlines have already made unilaterally, the practical impact of the regulatory effort for travelers and airlines may be muted.
Frontier Airlines Inc. is the only major US carrier that doesn’t guarantee complimentary hotel accommodations and ground transportation for passengers affected by a controllable overnight cancellation, according to government data.
But the White House is hoping the effort prompts airlines to expand existing benefits, the official said, noting that virtually no airlines compensate passengers beyond offering refunds. Travelers in Europe and Canada can apply for cash compensation for certain flight delays and cancellations caused by things within the airline’s control, and consumer advocates argue those penalties lead to fewer delays than experienced by US travelers.