It was a busy Labor Day weekend at the nation’s airports with air travel reaching pre-pandemic heights, surpassing levels for the same 2019 holiday weekend.
But the post-pandemic travel surge, combined with labor shortages, has left many travelers frustrated over flight delays and cancellations. A new online tool could help flyers navigate air travel complications with charts comparing cancellation and delay policies at the country’s top airlines.
The Department of Transportation unveiled what it’s calling the Airline Customer Service Dashboard, which allows passengers to see what they’re entitled to if their flight is cancelled or significantly delayed. Charts contain green checkmarks or red X’s next to the country’s top 10 airlines’ policies concerning rebooking, providing hotel accommodations, meal vouchers and more.
“According to the Department of Transportation, just the fact that they were putting it up compelled airlines to make commitments on a variety of things including meals and hotel vouchers,” said Robert Silk, aviation editor for Travel Weekly magazine and website. “Airlines were already doing this, but now it’s actually in writing. It’s a small step, but I think it’s a good step. It largely depends on whether people become aware of it.”
But travel industry experts say the airlines’ promises are likely only as good as the Department of Transportation’s enforcement.
“The D.O.T. doesn’t have a great record of enforcing regulations and fining airlines,” says Silk. “Historically, D.O.T. hasn’t had a lot of teeth to their enforcement and they’ve been criticized for that.”
DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman said their is a natural tension between passengers who want to fly as cheaply as possible and wanting airlines to be accomodating when problems occur.
“Fortunately, airlines have a massive incentive to provide a better passenger experience and to follow their state policies, not only due to the threat of re-regulation, but also to make the jobs of employees less stressful,” Schwieterman said. “When irregularities happen in flight operations, it is stressful for everyone.”