On Monday, US Pres. Joe Biden unveiled plans to launch new regulations mandating all US airlines to compensate passengers in cases of carrier-caused flight cancellations or delays.1
Later this year, Biden added, his administration will push for stricter rules requiring airlines to cover expenses for "meals, hotels, taxis, rideshares and rebooking fees, and cash miles and or travel vouchers," in addition to refunding the cost of affected tickets.2
The Transportation Department (DOT) claimed the new measures would improve on-time performance and better protect passengers experiencing financial losses, citing a study that found compensation for inconvenience has led to decreased flight delays in the EU.3
According to the DOT, ten airlines currently cover meal expenses, while nine guarantee hotel accommodations when they are responsible for travel disruptions. However, no airline currently provides cash compensation for "preventable cancellations or delays."4
The announcement — accompanied by the launch of a new government website, flightrights.gov, to track airlines' reimbursement policies — comes just ahead of the summer travel season. Last year, tens of thousands of flights were canceled, mostly due to maintenance issues and staffing shortages.5
Meanwhile, the trade association Airlines for America noted that companies "have no incentives to delay or cancel a flight," pointing to the fact that the Federal Aviation Administration is operating 10% fewer flights than in 2019 due to an air traffic controller shortage.6
Left narrative, as provided by Verge. The US is on the right path toward protecting passengers from financial losses when carriers are responsible for canceling or delaying their flights. The airline industry will undoubtedly oppose and lobby against this move, but the recent flight meltdowns have made it clear that the government must support those suffering the most.
Right narrative, as provided by Reason. Despite its attempt to pass the buck to the airlines for flight delays and cancellations, the government cannot deny its partial responsibility for flight meltdowns. While the FAA's controllers still track flights manually with paper strips instead of using computers, countries that have at least partially privatized air traffic control experience fewer delays, lower costs, and equal or improved safety. America must do the same.