Washington — Amid customer service dashboard to help vacationers ahead of the travel-heavy Labor Day weekend., the Department of Transportation has launched a
Travelers can check the dashboard to see what kinds of guarantees, refunds or compensation the major domestic airlines offer in case of flight delays or cancellations. It’s designed to enable travelers to shop around and favor those airlines that offer the best compensation.
The dashboard is part of an extended pressure campaign from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has publicly challenged the major carriers to improve service and transparency after a summer marred by cancellations and flight delays. As summer travel returned to nearly pre-levels, airlines struggled to keep pace, with mass cancellations being blamed on staffing shortages, particularly among pilots.
“Passengers deserve transparency and clarity on what to expect from an airline when there is a cancelation or disruption,” Buttigieg said in a statement Wednesday. The new tool, he said, will help travelers to “easily understand their rights, compare airline practices, and make informed decisions.”
The dashboard compares all the major domestic airlines’ policies on issues such as which offer meals for delays of more than three hours and which offer to rebook flights on the same or different airlines at no additional charge. It focuses on what it calls “controllable” cancellations or delays – meaning those caused by mechanical issues, staffing shortages or delays in cleaning, fueling or baggage handling. Delays or cancellations caused by weather or security concerns don’t count.
The Transportation Department is hoping the dashboard will encourage competition among carriers to offer the most transparency and the best protections for customers.
“Carriers welcome opportunities to simplify travel policies, clarify existing practices and increase transparency for travelers. U.S. airlines publicize their customer service plans on their individual websites,” said industry trade group Airlines for America in a statement. The new dashboard “gives travelers another platform to access that information.”
So far this year, airlines have canceled about 146,000 flights, or 2.6% of all flights, and nearly 1.3 million flights have been delayed, according to tracking service FlightAware. The rate of cancellations is up about one-third from the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, and the rate of delays is up nearly one-fourth.
Federal officials have blamed many of the disruptions on understaffing at airlines, which encouraged employees to quit after the pandemic started. The airlines have countered by blaming staffing problems at the Federal Aviation Administration, which employs air traffic controllers.