Airlines Commit to Aiding Stranded Travelers as DOT Publishes Customer Service Dashboard

Airlines Commit to Aiding Stranded Travelers as DOT Publishes Customer Service Dashboard

Travelers get assistance at the airport (photo by Eric Bowman)

Many of the major U.S. airlines have committed to aiding stranded passengers impacted by issues under the airlines’ control in a new step to avoid the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) from expanding the rights of airline passengers.

On Thursday, DOT published a new dashboard showing travelers which airlines provide which services during these delays and cancellations.

According to Reuters, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and others have committed to providing meals for customers who are delayed for three hours and to providing hotel rooms for stranded passengers, as long as the delays and cancellations are related to issues within the airlines’ control, now publishing these rules under their customer service plans.

Prior to these new rules, airline passengers had to ask the airlines to provide these things in the event of delays and cancellations.

The new rules follow DOT’s publication of an interactive dashboard that showcases the top 10 most popular airlines and the services they provide to customers experiencing delays or cancellations due to circumstances the airlines can control, which include overbooking flights or staffing shortages but exclude weather-related issues.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had previously urged the airlines to commit to providing meals and hotel stays, and he has commented that DOT may still enact new rules “that would further expand the rights of airline passengers.”

The aviation industry is the one sector of the travel industry that has seen the most tumultuous recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, due largely in part to a smaller workforce that hasn’t kept up with the rising demand. From baggage handlers to commercial pilots, the airlines simply haven’t been hiring the amount of staff needed to man the number of flights the airlines offer, leading to severe delays and cancellations.

During the first six months of the year, airlines canceled some 53,000 flights, leading to a 270 percent spike in passenger complaints filed to DOT in comparison with 2019.

The new rules aiding customers impacted by these cancellations and delays are a sign that the airlines expect the issues to continue, at least for the foreseeable future, and should help to appease at least some of the customers impacted.

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