WASHINGTON — Air travelers have been hit with widespread cancellations and delays this summer, but it's not always clear what type of reimbursement passengers are owed in those cases. That will soon change.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg detailed in a letter sent Thursday to airline CEOs that the department will be setting up an interactive online dashboard displaying what each airline says they provide if a flight is delayed or canceled based on issues within the airline's control.
The transportation secretary called on the airline CEOs to, at the very least, give meal vouchers for delays of 3 hours or longer and hotel stays for passengers who must wait overnight when the disruption is caused by something in the airline’s control.
In the letter sent to the 10 largest U.S. carriers, Buttigieg credited the airlines with making proactive changes after a rough Memorial Day weekend saw more than 2,800 canceled flights over a five-day span.
"Still, the level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer is unacceptable," Buttigieg stated. He went on to note that in the first half of the year, around 24% of domestic flights were delayed and 3.2% were canceled.
A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group whose members include American, United, Delta and Southwest, said airlines “strive to provide the highest level of customer service.” She said the airlines are committed to overcoming challenges including a tight labor market.
Buttigieg warned the airlines they could face new regulations if they don't do a better job of helping stranded travelers.
Earlier this month, the Transportation Department proposed a rule that would require airlines to give refunds if a passenger's departure or arrival time changes by three hours or more for a domestic flight or at least six hours for an international one.
Refunds would also be due if the airline changes the passenger’s departure or arrival airport, adds stops in their itinerary, or causes “a significant downgrade" in the travel experience by switching to a different type of plane.
"I urge you to take this opportunity to assess your Customer Service Plan to ensure that it guarantees adequate amenities and services to help passengers with expenses and inconveniences due to delays and cancelations," Buttigieg wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report