Buttigieg Signals Passenger Compensation Rules Coming


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is signaling more regulation is coming to address air travel issues, and compensation seems to be a major theme. In a letter to the nine major airlines, Buttigieg first dressed them down for the on-time record in the first six months of the year, which included a cancellation rate of 3.2 percent and 24 percent delayed. “These aren’t just numbers,” Buttigieg said in the letter. “These are missed birthday parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings.”

But he seemed to zero in on making sure passengers are fed, watered and, where necessary, housed when their flights are messed up. He said three hours should get you a food voucher and an overnight delay a night at the inn. Most airlines already do that when the delays and cancellation are their fault. Maintenance snags are the most common reason an airline will put you up for the night or buy you dinner. But they seem to be chafing at providing compensation when staffing issues are the cause. Buttigieg said the DOT will have a website up in time for the Labor Day weekend that spells out airline policies on compensation.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. On a go-forward basis, airlines could confront staffing issues by curtailing their future schedules. In extremis, make all tickets available on a same-day basis only.

    Of course, that won’t work for the mlions of already-booked reservations that, in many cases, were purchased six months ago. Those simply will have to work their way out of the system…

    Is there a lesson here? “Be careful what you ask for” comes to mind.

  2. What the administration doesn’t seem to realize is that the dynamic in the reservation system is the ticket price. It only seems logical that constraining seat capacity by only scheduling flights that can actually be staffed gives the airlines the opportunity to raise prices even higher. I’m sure the current passengers who must remain future passengers will appreciate that result and the other consumers left behind will happily adapt. (I’m also sure that unicorn farts will solve the carbon emission problems.)

  3. The DOT regulates airline safety vis-a-vis crew duty times, aircraft maintenance, etc. Then they turn around and slam the same airlines for doing exactly what they mandate them to do.

    Airline passenger traffic is up 128% from last year as near as I can tell. This growth would be difficult for any business to keep up with.

    The government can’t manage anything properly, yet they are good at telling everyone else how to do it. BTW, airline delays are also caused by airports and ATC both operated by government. Free enterprise will work if given the chance. Note to Buttigieg….Get your damn feet off my rudder pedals….

    God bless.

    • On the ATC side there are many delays. I was recently delayed by ATC leaving LGA for “weather” when the skies were clear. This 1:45 delay resulted in the next 3 flight on the same aircraft being delayed since there aren’t spare aircraft at every out station. We closed up and pushed 5 minutes early and sat so long on the ramp we almost had to taxi back in due to the DOT3 rules (company policy is to go back in at 2 hours). So 3 delayed flights all directly related to ATC, what’s the plan for fixing your own issues there Pete??????

  4. One thing is for sure – more government meddling in the affairs of the private sector will only make matters worse. Free markets work this out. An airline that antagonizes its customers too much goes out of business. This frees up its capital (aircraft and equipment) and its best employees to be used elsewhere. Bureaucrats like Mr. B need to study Mises.org

    • Let’s be clear, there is no such thing as a free market out there today. if there was it would be chaos or a monopoly. Time and time again it has been shown that unregulated markets evolve into monopolies, those monopolies are then less interested in the consumer and use an abuse phase of maximize profit to happily destroy the environment.

      At the moment there are four major airlines, United, American, Delta, and South West and these four control much of the major airports, staking claims in home ports like Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, and Houston. In what way can there be any real competition so of course American can screw customers and not really take a hit since they are almost guaranteed customers due to demand.

      I get a kick at those who love to insult Sec of transportation, but don’t seem to have any viable solution as to how to fix the problems. I actually think it is smart to go after airlines, but reminding passengers they have rights and protections, because that does hurt the bottom line.

      I am beginning to suspect “Bob’s” comments for it was a remarkably similar post to an FAA article last week. Bob loves to say ATC delayed him on a sunny day at the departure airport, but I would have also said why ATC delayed. Have pilots stopped being curious and just don’t ask any more? Nope, it would seem they are content sitting a long time on a ramp then complaining. Was it routing? Weather in route? Weather at arrival predicted?

      The S0T is right about one thing, these cancellations and delays impacts real lives. People have/had come to depend on the reliability of airlines and that trust is fading so at least he is trying to do something.

      • Bob’s comment on ATC delays is spot on. I have had to contend with ATC “weather” and traffic volume delays many times as well. How about the efficiencies ADS-B was supposed to provide? The airlines overselling doesn’t help either. What happened to the billions of dollars given to the airlines to help coping with Covid restrictions? There is plenty of blame to go around on this issue.

      • Justin, you are right that there is no free market but you are wrong about why. There is no free market because of government intrusion by definition and without government intrusion there would NOT be chaos or monopolies. Monopolies, again by definition, only exist through government intervention. Where free markets do and have existed, the performance was substantially better for their customers and in may cases ruined by subsequent involvement by governments. Of course I support your ability to have an opinion about the correct course of action, but please do a bit more research on the fundamentals of economics before making such broad and incorrect statements to support your opinion.

  5. I have given up on commercial flights. Either I grab the 182 or my car keys. It takes me 1.5 – 2 hours to get to either of Chicago’s airports. Only to wait 1/2 the day to get airborne? Sorry. Not happening anymore.

  6. Not sure why my comment about the sad state about the airlines and the equally low standards of attire of the traveling public was removed. Suffice it to say that US air travel is now akin to a minimum security holding pen followed by bus trip.

  7. Here’s a review of the existing passenger rules:

    Air Carriers most have their schedule approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) each year and can have the schedule adjusted but it can take 6 months. If the D.O.T. does not approve the schedule change the Air Carrier must continue until the next approved schedule.

    There’s a lot of rules being cherry-picked by the many levels of government that are enforced or NOT enforced that are creating these delays. The Air Carriers are at the mercy of the rules and can be fined or suspended if fail to follow the ones that they are told to follow. ‘Regulation Du Jour’.

    Learn More Here:

  8. Once upon a time if an airline flight did not go for any number of reasons, the airline would book the passenger on another airline to solve the problem. Getting back to this simple rule would go a long way in resolving the airline problem.
    That is a rule that essentially everyone but the airlines would agree with. There ought to be a law…

  9. Perhaps if we hadn’t nearly completely abandoned our long-range passenger rail system, there would be an alternative and a way to alleviate the congestion on the airlines.

  10. How about forbidding the airlines to overbook? Some are doing overbooking up to 20%. Also how about first come first served? Meaning those who book and pay for their flight in advance have priority over those who book later. Those who book in advance may get a cheaper price which allows the airlines to float that $$$ for the duration and then later bookings paying a higher price ticket seem to get a seat and boot out the early birds.

  11. 1) They seem to forget who will pay for this. The passengers. Give more things, pay higher prices.

    2) Remember what happened after Congress got involved with compensation for long delays on board. Airlines just canceled the flight. And if for weather, the passengers get nothing.

    Too many unintended consequences when things like this get mandated.