Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the rise in flight cancellations and delays across the country “unacceptable” and warned airlines that his department could take action if airlines fail to provide more transparency about why the disruptions are occurring.
Buttigieg wrote letters to several US airline CEOs this week, calling the level of disruption Americans experienced this summer “unacceptable.”
Buttigieg asked airline CEOs to at least provide shelter for passengers stranded overnight at an airport and hand out meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more when the disruption is caused by something the airline has control over.
The Department of Transportation says the letters were sent to CEOs of 10 US airlines, including the major ones, their regional affiliates and budget carriers.
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Buttigieg’s agency recently proposed rules around refunds for passengers whose flights have been canceled or rescheduled. He told the CEOs that the department is considering additional rules “that would further extend the rights of air passengers who experience disruptions”.
Buttigieg has been squabbling with airlines since late spring over the high number of cancellations and delays, but said in his letter that he appreciates airlines ramping up staff hiring and adjusting schedules to better suit the number of people involved. flights they can handle.
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A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group that includes American, United, Delta and Southwest, said airlines are “striving to provide the highest level of customer service.” She said the airlines are committed to overcoming challenges, including a tight labor market.
Staff shortages have led to a significant number of flight cancellations and delays throughout the summer, which analysts say would have been worse had airlines not slashed their schedules.
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Earlier this summer, Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group Airlines for America, said its member airlines have canceled 15% of the flights they originally planned through August, while also ramping up hiring and training to combat problems and become more reliable. for passengers.
The problems persisted as demand rose to pre-pandemic levels, forcing some airlines to shorten their schedule for the fall.
Associated Press contributed to this report