December 1, 2023

Pete Buttigieg Is Trying to Fix Air Travel With a ‘Dashboard.’ What’s on It?

If airlines don’t meet the commitment stated in the chart, the Department of Transportation said passengers could submit a complaint. Of course, that won’t immediately help.

No. The proposal tries to clarify the conditions under which travelers are owed a full refund instead of a credit or voucher, if a flight is significantly altered. Such alterations include a three-hour delay for a domestic flight, a six-hour delay for an international flight, the addition of a layover or a switch in the departure or destination airport.

The proposal, which Mr. Buttigieg will revisit in November, does not currently stipulate that the money has to be automatically refunded if passengers choose to cancel instead of fly. If it becomes a federal requirement, some airlines may choose to interpret it this way. Others may still require passengers to call their airline to make this happen.

The airlines say they are, noting that they have already made major changes to schedules and staffing, and as a result, things have gotten better, with cancellations falling notably in recent weeks. Some analysts back them up, arguing that the airlines are implicitly incentivized to reduce cancellations, given that they cost money and create major headaches.

But nearly 40 state attorneys general don’t think so. Just as Department of Transportation officials were giving a press briefing on their recent successes getting the airlines to change, the attorneys general published a letter arguing that the Department of Transportation’s approach is so weak that it should be stripped of its ability to regulate aviation. State attorneys general — and perhaps another federal agency — should be given that role instead, they wrote.

In a follow-up email, the New Hampshire attorney general, John M. Formella, who was among those who signed the letter, offered his review of the interactive dashboard. “Will the new dashboard give paying air customers a timeline of when the Transportation Secretary and his colleagues will start to enforce the law and provide them some basic consumer protections?” he wrote.

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