Major airlines are promising more when it comes to flight cancellations and delays. You can now find all the necessary information on one website.
New Consumer Rights
In the past, if your flight was canceled or delayed for several hours, regardless of the reason, airlines did not have to give you meal vouchers, hotel rooms, or transportation. But that’s changing. Major airlines, like United, American, and Delta, are all updating their customer service agreements to include compensation for controllable cancellations and delays.
For instance, United Airlines will now offer meal vouchers for flights delayed more than 3 hours. The airline is also easing its hotel policy: If United is not able to book you at a partner hotel, it will reimburse you for a reservation you can make on your own for a stay up to $200.
American Airlines is following suit, providing hotel vouchers for flight cancellations within their control, like staffing issues. The airline will also cover transportation to and from the hotel. Southwest is updating its hotel policy to include similar verbiage.
The dramatic shift in consumer rights, when it comes to controllable delays and cancellations, comes after a summer travel season fraught with massive cancellations, due to staffing shortages both within the airlines and at various air traffic control centers.
According to transportation officials, more than 100,000 flights were canceled so far this year, with 45,000 of them just since the beginning of June. Some airlines tried to ease the situation by voluntarily cutting back on summer schedules, with some extending that policy into the fall.
New Government Website
In an effort to streamline the new rules, the government is launching its Aviation Consumer Protection website. The site has clear graphics outlining each major airline and its new rules surrounding delays and cancellations when it comes to meals, hotels, transportation, and rebooking.
Looking at the site, you’ll see that nine of the 10 major U.S. airlines are now promising to book you on another flight for free if your original flight is canceled. (Allegiant Airlines is the outlier in this case.) Eight airlines will now put you up in a hotel should your cancellation cause you to stay overnight (Allegiant and Frontier Airlines will not), and seven airlines will also pay for your transportation (Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit will not).
The government hopes the new site will help passengers easily compare airlines to make more informed decisions when they are flying.
Also on the website is a place for passengers to file a complaint with the Department of Transportation should they feel they are being denied these new commitments. There’s also information on tarmac delays, what to do if you’re bumped from a flight, and lost or damaged luggage.
Controllable Vs. Uncontrollable
Note that these changes affect controllable issues; airlines are not changing their rules when it comes to uncontrollable delays or cancellations. Controllable issues include staffing issues, cabin cleaning, fueling, and baggage issues, among other things.
Uncontrollable delays and cancellations are typically due to bad weather somewhere in the country that’s causing a backlog of airplanes. Airlines treat these situations differently and you may not be eligible for any compensation or help.
It’s helpful to know your airline’s policy when it comes to both situations before you travel. Here are some of our tips on how to deal with those situations effectively.