Buttigieg to airlines: Summer flight cancellations ‘unacceptable’
(CNN) — With millions of travelers expected to rush airports over the Labor Day holiday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is telling major airlines that this summer’s thousands of flight cancellations are not acceptable.
The Department of Transportation plans to better inform passengers of their recourse when facing a significant flight disruption, the secretary said in a letter sent to executives of all US carriers.
Buttigieg says in the letter that while it is not reasonable to expect perfect reliability from airlines, “the level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer is unacceptable.”
Buttigieg says the Department of Transportation will publish a new online dashboard by Labor Day weekend where passengers can find “easy-to-read, comparative summary information” on what each of the large US airlines provides to passengers when delays or cancellations are caused by factors within the airline’s control.
Buttigieg said the dashboard will be displayed by September 2 on the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection site.
“When passengers do experience cancelations and delays, they deserve clear and transparent information on the services that your airline will provide, to address the expenses and inconveniences resulting from these disruptions,” Buttigieg wrote.
He is urging airlines to review their customer service commitments to passengers.
“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. 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,” the letter states.
Buttigieg says DOT data shows that US carriers canceled 3.2% and delayed 24% of domestic flights in the first six months of the year. Data from flight tracking site FlightAware shows US airlines have canceled more than 40,000 flights since the start of June.
“These aren’t just numbers,” Buttigieg wrote. “These are missed birthday, parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings.”
The letter makes only scant reference to the Federal Aviation Administration’s issues with staffing at air traffic control facilities that have contributed to the summer’s cancellations and delays. On Monday night, a shortage of controllers prompted an FAA delay advisory for New York’s big three airports.