US airlines should provide a free meal to passengers whose flights have been delayed and lodging for those that had their trips canceled due to ongoing travel chaos, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asserted in a letter to the CEOs of top carriers.
Buttigieg called ongoing flight disruptions across the US “unacceptable” as Americans prepare for trips over the busy Labor Day holiday weekend.
He noted that 24% of domestic flights on US airlines were delayed through the first six months of the year, while more than 3% were canceled.
“The Department asks that airlines, at a minimum, provide meal vouchers for delays of 3 hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport because of disruptions within the carrier’s control,” Buttigieg said in the letter.
“Regardless of the cause of the delays or cancelations, the Department expects airlines to provide timely and responsive customer service during and after periods of flight disruptions,” he added.
US airlines have scrambled to improve service this year despite the impact of ongoing pilot and flight crew shortages, supply chain difficulties, steep fuel costs and sporadic bad weather. The challenges have coincided with a surge in travel demand as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes and Americans plan more trips.
Major flight disruptions occurred over both the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends in recent months – with travelers at major airports at times stranded for hours.
The heads of the 10 largest US airlines received the letter from Buttigieg – who also urged the company’s to review and update their customer service plans to aid impacted travelers.
The secretary added that the Department of Transportation was “contemplating” updated regulations that would “further expand the rights of airline passengers.”
“As you know, these aren’t just numbers, these are missed birthday parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings,” Buttigieg said of the flight disruptions.
Airlines for America, the trade group that represents major US airlines, indicated that the carriers were working to address the Department of Transportation’s concerns.
“Carriers strive to provide the highest level of customer service and look forward to working with the DOT to continue providing transparency for the traveling public,” the group said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg.
As The Post reported earlier this month, data recently showed that New York’s LaGuardia Airport had the highest rate of flight disruptions of any major airport in the US.