Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said his department could draft new rules on passenger rights if airlines don’t offer more help to travelers stranded with flight cancellations or delays. I warned the airline that there was.
Buttigieg has told the airline’s CEO, at the very least, to provide accommodations for passengers stranded overnight at the airport and to delay delays of three hours or more if the disruption is caused by something under the airline’s control. I am asking you to provide me with a meal ticket.
The Department of Transportation released copies of the letter on Friday, saying it was sent to the CEOs of 10 U.S. airlines, including major airlines, their regional affiliates and budget airlines.
A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group that includes American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines, said the airlines “strive to provide the highest level of customer service.” She said the airline is committed to overcoming challenges, including a tight labor market.
Buttigieg’s agency recently proposed rules regarding refunds for passengers whose flights have been canceled or rescheduled. He told the CEO that the department is considering additional rules that “further expand the rights of airline passengers who have experienced the disruption.”
Buttigieg has been at war with airlines over numerous flight cancellations and delays since late spring. In his latest salvo, he told airline CEOs that he appreciates how airlines are ramping up hiring and adjusting schedules to match the number of flights they can handle.
“Still, the level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer is unacceptable,” he wrote.
Another aviation industry group head disputed Mr. Buttigieg’s praise of the schedule reduction. Regional Aviation Association president Faye Malarkey-Black said these cuts were due to a shortage of pilots, which was especially detrimental to those using smaller airports.
“There are many responsibilities in avoiding this crisis, and solving[the pilot shortage]is a long-term solution, with people with access to air services moving between big city centers. It’s not just about reducing capacity until it’s just people,” Black said.
So far this year, airlines have canceled about 146,000 flights, or 2.6%, and delayed about 1.3 million flights, according to tracking service FlightAware. Cancellation rates have increased by about a third compared to the same period in 2019 prior to the pandemic, and delay rates have increased by about a quarter.
Federal officials have blamed much of the disruption on airline staff shortages, which led to employees leaving after the pandemic began. He counters by blaming the problem of staffing at the Civil Aviation Bureau.
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