It’s not just your imagination. Flying has really gotten worse this year. In addition to lost luggage and unruly customers, flights are being canceled and delayed more and more often.
Reasons for cancellations range from pilot shortages to hurricanes and other natural events exacerbated by climate change. But the end result is that more and more often, it’s taking longer and longer for people to get anywhere.
This is only somewhat of an exaggeration, mind you. According to information released by the Department of Transportation, 3.2% of US flights were canceled and 24% were delayed during the first six months of the year. As noted by FlightAware, “this is up from a 2.1% cancellation rate and 17.2% delay rate during the same period in 2019.”
Nobody is happy about that. But you know who isn’t particularly happy about it? Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who sent a worded letter to 9 major airlines, telling them to get their act together. The man formerly known as Mayor Pete also thinks these airlines owe us dinner for our trouble.
Mayor Pete tells the airlines to get their act together
As noted by PhocusWire, Buttigieg politely told the airlines to do better, calling the delays unacceptable. “These are not just numbers,” Buttigieg said in the letter. “These are missed birthdays, holidays, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings.”
One of Buttigieg’s demands is that airlines offer food vouchers to any passengers who have to wait more than three hours and that travelers who are stranded overnight should receive free accommodation.
“I urge you to take this opportunity to evaluate your Customer Service Plan to ensure that it guarantees adequate services and facilities to assist passengers with the expense and inconvenience of delays and cancellations,” Buttigieg wrote.
“The department requires airlines, at a minimum, to provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and lodging for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport due to disruptions within the carrier’s control.”
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Some airlines already have a policy of giving hotel vouchers, but not if the flight is canceled for reasons beyond their control.
The Department of Transportation wants to keep airlines honest
There are currently no federal laws requiring airlines to provide meals or accommodations to indigent travelers.
While that may or may not change in the future, Secretary Buttigieg has another plan. On September 2, the Department of Transportation will launch a feature on its website that will allow travelers to compare the amenities airlines offer to customers during delays and cancellations.
Will the fear and embarrassment of appearing cheap and uncaring to stranded customers, especially when compared to their competition, shame the airlines into issuing some coupons? We will soon find out.
This is just Secretary Buttigieg’s latest rant in an ongoing pressure campaign against the airline industry. Earlier this summer, he announced a proposal that would guarantee customers would receive a refund for a canceled flight or a flight delayed by more than three hours if they choose not to take a later flight.
There is currently no uniform cancellation policy across the industry and many airlines issue vouchers that expire within a year, which is very inconvenient for many customers.
The proposal would require airlines to issue vouchers, without an expiration date, when passengers “are unable to fly for certain pandemic-related reasons, such as government-mandated travel bans, closed borders or passengers being advised not to travel to protect their health or the health of other passengers.”
But if an airline or ticket agency receives government aid related to the pandemic, they will be required to issue cash refunds instead of vouchers.