Since last Memorial Day, nearly 40,000 domestic flights have been canceled across the US. This includes a recent systemwide meltdown by Southwest Airlines (LUV), resulting in 16,000 flights canceled by the airline over the holidays.
This historical debacle left thousands of people stranded, but the US Department of Transportation proposed new legislation in August that could help. If implemented, it will make it easier for airline passengers to get refunds for canceled or altered flights. The legislation will also introduce rules designed to hold airlines accountable for cancellations and flight disruptions.
Under the newly proposed rules, passengers would be able to seek a refund if an airline adds unexpected layovers, interrupts expected travel time by more than three hours, or changes the airport of arrival or departure. Even changes to the type of plane used for the flight (in some cases) would be eligible for refunds.
Additionally, these proposed rules would protect consumers who are unable to fly due to pandemic or COVID-19 related reasons. After a few unusually chaotic years of travel, these new industry regulations are designed to protect consumers and compensate them for interruptions to their travel plans.
No More Overbooking
Finally, the DOT plans to crack down on the common industry practice of overbooking flights. Since passengers don’t always show up for their flights, airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane to maximize their profit. But on busy travel days, this practice leaves many ticketed passengers in the lurch.
If the proposed legislation passes, airlines will be required to pay fines and compensate travelers accordingly for overbooked flights. Some elected officials have further urged the department to restrict airlines from selling tickets for flights that they do not have adequate staffing to support.
Down the line, these rules could change your travel experience for the better. But you don’t have to wait to have a say. If you believe that the airline industry would benefit from a higher level of accountability today, you can show your support for this movement here.
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