Stranded Air Travelers to Receive Compensation When Airlines Cancel, U.S. D.O.T Requires

Stranded Air Travelers to Receive Compensation When Airlines Cancel, U.S. D.O.T Requires

By Yehudit Garmaise

For the time ever: the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to make airlines accountable to compensate passengers for meals, hotels, and rebooked tickets after flight cancellations and delays of three hours or more.

In addition, the D.O.T. is trying to ensure “timely customer service during and after periods of widespread flight irregularities,” the agency said.

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “[The DOT’s new] rule would, for the first time in U.S. history, make mandatory airlines’ coverage of expenses such as meals, hotels, and rebooking in cases where the airline has caused cancellations or significant delays.”

After trying to improve air travelers’ experiences for two years, the U.S. DOT has ensured that the ten largest airlines guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline.

Nine of those airlines now guarantee paid hotel accommodations.

Readers can check out which airlines cash compensations, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles after flight delays and cancellations at FlightRights.Gov, which the D.O.T first launched last summer. 

Last year, the D.O.T. reimbursed hundreds of thousands of stranded air travelers when the agency issued the largest number of fines in the history of the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection.

Since 2021, the D.O.T. has helped return more than $1 billion in refunds to travelers.

D.O.T. Secretary Buttigieg increased other consumer protections earlier this year when he pressed airlines to guarantee that parents and caregivers can sit next to their children who are 13 and under: without paying junk fees.

To determine which airlines guarantee fee-free family seating, readers can check out the D.O.T.’s new family seating dashboard, which highlights which airlines do and do not guarantee fee-free family seating.

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