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New Rules on the Horizon: Airlines May Soon Compensate for Travel Mishaps

Travelers, rejoice! The Biden administration is considering proposing new regulations requiring airlines to offer cash compensation to passengers when a cancellation or significant delay occurs due to the carrier’s fault.

This would be a groundbreaking change for US-based airlines. While refunds for canceled flights are federally mandated, no major carrier currently provides additional cash compensation for inconveniences. Only JetBlue and Alaska Airlines guarantee compensation beyond a refund in the form of frequent flyer miles or vouchers.

Air travel complaints have surged fourfold in recent years, primarily from passengers seeking refunds. This increase is unsurprising, as the Department of Transportation (DOT) attributes nearly 80% of cancellations in the first half of 2022 to airline mismanagement, such as crew shortages, aircraft maintenance, or late-arriving planes. Under the Biden administration’s proposed rules, these situations would necessitate compensation and a refund.

Furthermore, airlines must cover meals, transportation, and accommodations during flight disruptions. Most carriers (except Frontier) have already voluntarily adopted this practice following last summer’s chaotic travel season. However, experts anticipate this summer could be even more challenging, and implementing the new rules could take months or even years.

In the meantime, travelers can consult the DOT’s recently expanded customer service dashboard to review each airline’s offerings for delays or cancellations. This information can help passengers make informed decisions when booking flights and navigating potential travel hiccups, ensuring a smoother experience overall.