Passengers on Spirit Airlines deplane at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on May 27, 2021. The Transportation Department proposed new rules on Wednesday connected with passenger compensation for delayed or canceled flights. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Sparked by rising passenger complaints over compensation for delayed and canceled flights, the Transportation Department on Wednesday proposed stricter rules for airlines in how they defined when redress is needed.
Traveler complaints have soared since the COVID-19 pandemic, where the airline industry struggled with employee sicknesses and worker shortages overall. Passengers have often complained that carriers have not been properly compensating them for those inconveniences.
The DOT said its proposed rule changes would add specifics to what the airlines call "significant changes" to travel that warrant compensation.
These include changes that affect the departure and/or arrival times by three hours or more for a domestic flight or six hours or more for an international flight, and changes to the departure or arrival airport.
They also include changes that increase the number of connections in the itinerary, and changes to the type of aircraft flown if it causes a significant downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities available onboard the flight.
"When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release.
"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.
The DOT said its rule changes would fix the current problem of inconsistent policies among carriers on when passengers are entitled to refunds.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, various airlines have questioned the department's authority to require refunds for flights airlines cancel or significantly change.
"This proposal would codify the department's longstanding interpretation that a failure to provide refunds when a carrier cancels or significantly changes a flight to, from, or within the United States is an unfair practice," the DOT said in a statement.