Experts predicted a chaotic summer of travel and they were spot on. The Department of Transportation (DOT) released numbers showing consumer complaints are still up over 200% from pre-pandemic levels.
Travel has been taking off since the historic low we saw during the pandemic. Also on the up and up have been flight delays and cancellations.
In May, airlines reported 602,950 scheduled domestic flights — 11,993 of those were canceled, sparking thousands of complaints to the Department of Transportation and prompting them to take action.
“This latest news is about a new rule that we’re proposing that would expand passenger rights to things like refunds when your flight gets delayed or when you have an extreme delay or some other change to the itinerary that really changes the whole experience,” explained U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
Of the 4,344 complaints received in May more than 30% concerned refunds.
For years, the DOT has required airlines to issue refunds if a cancellation or significant delay occurs but until now, significant has not been defined, allowing them to refuse a refund or only give a voucher.
The Department of Transportation proposes that significant changes to a flight would include delays of three or more hours domestically and six hours for international, changes to the departure or arrival airport, an increase in the number of connections in the itinerary, and changes to the type of aircraft.
“When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably... This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines,” Buttigieg said.
After speaking with travelers at the San Luis Obispo Airport, it seems like the Central Coast, for the most part, has been shielded from the brunt of delays. But if it didn't happen here, most experienced a delay somewhere else.
“We’ve had to end up spending the night in Florida on our way back to California,” recalled airline passenger Shannon Stiener.
According to Flight Aware, on Monday, there were more than 700 delays and 90 cancellations nationwide. With numbers like that, passengers are hoping for the best but bracing for the worst.
“I was really worried about it this morning and I was like, oh gosh, because I had a connecting flight in San Francisco and they only have two flights coming into here,” said travler Crystal Gries.
With these new proposed rules, the DOT hopes to be moving toward lowering the number of delays, landing on a more enjoyable customer experience.
This rule has not yet been put into action. There is first a 90-day input period when the public can voice their opinion before Secretary Buttigieg signs the proposal.