The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday launched an online dashboard for Americans dealing with flight cancellations or delays, a website that details what each airline has committed to providing customers if their travel plans are derailed.
The Airline Customer Service Dashboard features the top 10 U.S. airlines and the services they’ll offer if they cancel or delay your flight for reasons within their control, such as staffing or mechanical issues.
The new site is meant to be a one-stop shop for Americans to figure out what they’re owed when a flight is canceled or delayed, said Carlos Monje, Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, so passengers don't have to "wade through a bunch of fine print to understand what their rights are."
"We're doing everything we can, holding the airlines' feet to the fire, making sure that they know that we're watching and that we have the passengers' backs," Monje said.
If an airline cancels your flight, for example, most every airline will now rebook you within the company at no additional cost.
Just five airlines — American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and United — will rebook you on a different airline at no additional cost.
Most airlines also now commit to giving you meal vouchers if you’re delayed more than three hours, and many will also pay for your hotel and transportation to a hotel if you’re pushed to a flight the next day.
Officials noted that customers are also entitled to a full refund if they decide not to travel at all after a significant delay or cancellation.
It’s part of a renewed effort from the Transportation Department to push airlines to not only avoid travel disruptions but to make it right when they interfere with customers’ travel plans.
Airlines canceled 3.1% of scheduled domestic flights in June, the latest month of data available from the transportation department. That’s up from 1.6% last year.
And airline complaints remain 270% higher than pre-pandemic levels, most of them about delays and cancellations.
"An airline, at any point, is running with a degree of slack in its system to accommodate the delays that are bound to happen," Monje of the DOT told Spectrum News. "Because of the labor market ... they're all running a little hot, and and the small delays can really cascade and impact a lot of folks."
Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg wrote a letter to airlines earlier this month warning about the forthcoming dashboard and calling on them to improve their customer service plans. He called the number of summer flight cancellations “unacceptable.”
Senior administration officials credited that letter for turning things around, and they said that airlines have since stepped up the services they offer in the case of disruptions.
No airlines guaranteed hotels or meals before the letter, one official said, yet now seven out of ten are doing both.
The dashboard provides a chart of most airlines’ customer service policies, for easy access.
“Passengers deserve transparency and clarity on what to expect from an airline when there is a cancellation or disruption,” said Sec. Buttigieg in a statement.
“This dashboard collects that information in one place so travelers can easily understand their rights, compare airline practices, and make informed decisions.”
DOT has also proposed a rule that would strengthen the department’s ability to enforce refunds for canceled or delayed flights. It would also require airlines to provide vouchers or flight credits that don’t expire when a person can’t fly for pandemic-related reasons, such as travel bans or their health.