• Possible changes include compensation in addition to refunds
  • Some facilities include food or meal vouchers and overnight accommodations for customers
  • This comes as post-pandemic air travel is expected to surge this summer

The Biden administration is proposing new rules to mandate airlines to compensate consumers facing flight delays and cancellations after passengers faced several travel mishaps over the holidays last year.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will announce the new process to ensure airlines cover the expenses faced by customers struggling with "controllable airline cancellations" or delays.

"When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill," Buttigieg said in a statement, according to CNN. "This rule would, for the first time in US history, propose to require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses such as meals, hotels, and rebooking in cases where the airline has caused a cancellation or significant delay."

Other possible changes include compensation in addition to refunds and facilities related to food or meal vouchers, transportation to a hotel, on-time customer service and overnight accommodations for customers in the event of flight delays or cancellations.

The plan is reportedly to enhance the Airline Customer Service Dashboard on that will display the specific facilities provided by every airline, including cash compensation, travel credits, vouchers or flyer miles, a White House official told CNN.

Currently, no airline offers cash compensation for flight cancellations or delays, only frequent flyer miles and travel credits and vouchers.

The development comes as airlines have been facing criticism over frequent flight cancellations and delays over the past few months, particularly during the holidays.

For instance, more than 3,000 flights were canceled in one day in December 2022, including over 2,600 planes from just Southwest Airlines, The Hill reported. Passengers slammed the airlines for lack of accommodations and incompetence dealing with the delays and cancellations.

Both DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are ensuring necessary actions to address disruptions in consumer flights, especially during peak months. The department said it is working with the airlines to reduce cancellations and delays as post-pandemic air travel is expected to surge this summer.

Last year in June, Buttigieg had issued a letter to several U.S. airline CEOs, urging them to ensure reliability in flight schedules and improved customer service in the aftermath of disruptions that occurred over Memorial Day, as per CNBC. At the time, he also pressed CEOs to publish charts depicting which airlines guaranteed which types of compensation for canceled or delayed flights.

In December, the Biden administration launched an investigation after Southwest Airlines faced a holiday meltdown which resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations. Both Transportation and Justice departments were looking at whether the airline scheduled more flights than it realistically could handle.

As per a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, the DOT has been "analyzing system-wide cancellation and on-time performance data and routinely meeting with airlines to review their scheduling and operational performance."

While the report blamed airlines for cancellations, it also raised eyebrows over flight disruptions caused due to FAA technology outages and staffing shortages. Recently, the agency asked airline services between major New York airports this summer, as it doesn't have enough air traffic controllers.

After public backlash and pressure from the DOT, several airlines changed their policies for customers, with at least 10 airlines now guaranteeing meals and nine providing hotel accommodations when a delay or cancellation is caused by the company.

Southwest Airlines flights resume following the lifting of a brief nationwide stoppage in Chicago