New website helps flyers with delays and cancellations

By ASHRAF KHALIL Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid months of massive flight cancellations and delays, the Department of Transportation has launched a customer service dashboard to help vacationers ahead of Labor Day weekend.

From Thursday, travelers will be able to consult the dashboard and see what types of guarantees, refunds or compensations the main national airlines offer in the event of flight delays or cancellations. It is designed to allow travelers to shop around and prioritize the airlines that offer the best compensation.

The scorecard is part of a protracted pressure campaign by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has publicly challenged major carriers to improve service and transparency after a summer marred by flight cancellations and delays. As summer travel returned to near pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, airlines struggled to keep pace, with mass cancellations blamed on understaffing, particularly among pilots.

“Passengers deserve transparency and clarity about what to expect from an airline in the event of a cancellation or disruption,” Buttigieg said in a statement Wednesday. The new tool, he said, will help travelers “easily understand their rights, compare airline practices and make informed decisions.”

The dashboard compares all the policies of the main national airlines on issues such as which offer meals for delays of more than three hours and which offer to rebook flights on the same airline or on different companies. different at no additional cost. It focuses on what it calls “controllable” cancellations or delays, meaning those caused by mechanical problems, staff shortages or delays in cleaning, refueling or handling. luggages. Delays or cancellations caused by weather conditions or security issues do not count.

The Department of Transport hopes the scorecard will encourage competition between airlines to provide the most transparency and the best protections for customers.

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 cancellation rate increased by about a third compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, and the rate of delays increased by almost a quarter.

Federal officials blamed many of the disruptions on understaffing at airlines, which encouraged employees to quit after the pandemic began. The airlines responded by blaming staffing problems at the Federal Aviation Administration, which employs air traffic controllers.

Associated Press writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

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