Fewer Flights Cancelled in 2023 So Far, as U.S. DOT Continues to Try to Improve Passengers' Experiences
By Yehudit Garmaise
After widespread flight cancellations left many American travelers stranded in airports in 2022, the number of flight cancellations dropped in the first six months of 2023, according to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation last week.
While 3.2% of flights were canceled in the first six months of 2022, in the first six months of 2023, only 1.6% of flights were canceled. The end of 2022 was when American travelers were hit with many flight cancellations.
This year's lower number of flight cancelations also dips far below the first six months of 2019, when 2.4% of flights were canceled.
In response to rising complaints from consumers about ongoing flight disruptions, on December 16, 2022, a bipartisan group of 34 state attorneys general wrote U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg a letter that said, "The USDOT has yet to develop the ability to respond quickly enough to or coordinate effectively with our offices."
From December 24 to December 31, 2022, software and staffing issues forced Southwest Airlines to cancel 14,042 flights or 72.3% of all canceled flights nationwide, the DOT reported.
To provide better care for travelers whose flights are canceled in the future, the DOT enacted rules that resulted in the ten largest airlines guaranteeing meals and free rebooking on the same airline.
In addition, nine airlines guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the U.S. DOT's Airline Customer Service Dashboard.
Consumers can check the expanded, user-friendly dashboard at FlightRights.Gov to highlight which airlines, if any, offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, and award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations.
Also included in the U.S. DOT's recent push to improve passengers' experiences were the largest fines, based on passengers' complaints, ever issued to airlines, as reported by BoroPark24 here.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. DOT has also helped return more than $2.5 billion in refunds to travelers, reports transporation.gov.
Although no airline previously guaranteed fee-free family seating, due to the DOT's urging, three airlines committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating. This was followed by a legislative proposal sent to Congress requiring all airlines to provide fee-free family seating.
Customers wishing to sit with their children when they fly while avoiding paying junk fees can log in to the U.S. DOT's new family seating dashboard here highlighting the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating.