It’s been a hectic travel season, with last-minute flight changes, delays and, worse, flights being canceled altogether, leading to anxiety and misery at some airport gates.
Nerves are especially high ahead of the upcoming popular Labor Day holiday weekend.
And now, there’s at least one thing you can do about it: share your travel experiences, concerns and necessary passenger protections with regulators.
The new rules now being considered could lead to a smoother journey for all passengers.
The Department for Transport says that so far in 2022, nearly one in four flights have been delayed and three in 100 have been cancelled.
The Seyfried family of Homewood saw this first hand.
Three generations of their family – grandmother, daughter and granddaughter – flew to Europe earlier this month.
It was a trip they said they had been looking forward to all summer.
“It was everything we could have hoped for, right down to the end,” daughter Jessica Seyfried said.
“[Jessica] had received a text or an email from the airlines saying the flight was cancelled,” said Seyfried’s mother, Jeannine.
Their flight from Dublin to Chicago was canceled in the wee hours of an Irish morning while they were on their way to the airport. They said they received no explanation from their airline as to why it was cancelled.
The only detail they got was that the next flight was three days later.
“We can’t sit here for two more days,” said Jeannine Seyfried, a public school teacher who had to return to Chicago to prepare for the fall semester.
Jessica Seyfried’s daughter and high school sophomore Madison Seyfried said she made it a point to keep her mother and grandmother calm.
“I could see my mother panicking, I could see my grandmother panicking,” Madison Seyfried said. “It was very stressful.”
In the end, the Seyfried family had to find their own way home, booking a flight on an alternative airline. However, Madison Seyfried said she learned an unexpected lesson on today’s flight.
“We are so advanced in technology that I didn’t think this would happen. I thought the airlines would be able to figure it out in a few minutes, but it took a whole day,” she said. “It was just surprising to me.”
The airline industry’s ultimatum
The Feds have blamed airlines for higher cancellation and delay rates, accusing companies of overscheduling flights.
Trade groups representing airlines say they are experiencing pilot shortages and general staffing challenges, and that is what has led to travel disruptions.
Airlines say they have issued $21 billion in refunds since the start of the pandemic, proof that each company has complied with the current rules and regulations surrounding when a passenger is owed a refund or flight voucher.
But now, the feds are questioning whether those rules in place go far enough. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttegieg told the TODAY Show last week that airlines need to do a better job supporting passengers when they experience delays or cancellations.
Buttegieg is giving the airline industry an ultimatum: Come up with improvements to passenger rights yourself, or new laws will do it for you.
“I’m giving them an opportunity to raise the bar,” Buttigieg said.
In addition, DOT is developing a website that will summarize each airline’s policies regarding cancellations and delays, all in one place. The goal is to have that website up and running by Labor Day weekend.
“The message to airlines is that you have to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights,” Buttegieg said.
Newly Proposed Airline Refund Protections
Meanwhile, there are stronger protections for passenger rights at work, but first, the feds are asking for passenger input on what needs to change.
Prompted by growing complaints, DOT’s newly proposed rules could guarantee your right to a refund of money, meals, hotels and even vouchers on future flights if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed for reasons that are under airline control.
For years, airlines have been mandated to offer refunds or flight vouchers if a flight is canceled or significantly changed.
Now, the new rules will define what a “significant change” to a flight means, including: the departure or arrival time of a domestic flight delayed by three hours or more, six hours for international flights or changes to the airport where it was originally planned. to sit on or rise from.
“Significant changes” under the new rules will also include any route changes that increase the number of connecting flights a passenger must take to reach their destination.
The rules even include a proposed voucher system for passengers who have to cancel a flight due to a COVID-19 or future illness.
The DOT said, “The proposal would require airlines and ticket agents to offer passengers flight credits or vouchers that are valid indefinitely when passengers are unable to fly for certain pandemic-related reasons, such as government-mandated travel bans, closed borders or passengers are advised not to travel to protect their health or that of other passengers.”
If approved, the new rules would not take effect until next year, at the earliest. Scott Keyes is a passenger advocate, author and founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a website that helps passengers find the best deals on airline tickets.
Keyes says the changes proposed here could be monumental.
“If passed, this would be the largest expansion of passenger rights in decades,” Keyes said.
These changes are not yet finalized and the traveling public has a chance to touch them.
The Department of Transport is seeking public input over the next three months. Your voice, your chance to weigh in on the rules you may need to rely on years from now.
Keyes says the flying public needs to take advantage of this opportunity, or the airlines will have their say.
“It’s critical for individual travelers to have their voices heard here so that it’s not just the airlines in the industry and their lobbyists that are shaping what ultimately becomes law here,” Keyes told NBC 5. “Because in at the end of the day, it’s us individual travelers who are affected by these rules.”
How to comment on the new flight rules
Here’s how you can share your story and comment on the new DOT rules:
1. Go to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) webpage for this specific proposal linked here.
2. In the Browse Documents section, find the Proposed Rule titled Airline Refunds and Consumer Protection
3. Click on the blue “Comment” button.
4. Share your thoughts in the comments section. DOT recommends keeping comments, whether in support of or in opposition to a regulatory action, constructive, clear, and concise. Comments that follow these guidelines will be “more likely to have an impact on regulatory decision-making,” the agency says.
5. Sharing your email address is optional, not required.
6. Choose whether you want to identify yourself as representing an individual, organization or if you want to share your thoughts anonymously.