Several major US airlines have updated their customer service agreements due to pressure from the Biden administration to step up consumer rights following a summer plagued by flight cancellations and delays.
Among the airlines as Delta, American, United, Jet Blue, and Southwest, all of which have updated their customer service policies this week, CNN reported.
The policies have been revised in clearer language, with some changes on when passengers can receive meal and hotel vouchers if a flight is canceled or delayed.
In United’s case, the airline will now offer meal vouchers for delayed flights of three hours or more; the previous timeframe was four hours.
The airline also outlined its hotel voucher policy regarding unexpected overnight stays caused by something within United’s control. If vouchers are unavailable for their partner hotels, the airline confirms customers can submit a receipt to the airline’s Customer Care Team for reimbursement of up to $200.
Earlier this month, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asked airlines to reexamine customer service plans and provide meals when flights are delayed more than three hours. A request that Delta already aligned with.
“A lot of the airlines have really upped their game, and I think committed to some consumer protections in writing that they hadn’t previously,” said Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg in an interview with CNN. “We’re going to continue to work with them.”
Delta CEO Ed Bastian responded to Secretary Buttigieg’s letter outlining steps the company has taken to mitigate cancellations.
Bastian said Delta provides “full and timely refunds to eligible passengers.”
“Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve refunded over 11 million tickets totaling $6 billion, of which 20% has taken place in 2022,” he wrote, adding that they’ve hired 20,000 new employees since the beginning of 2021.
In his request to airlines, Buttigieg also asked airlines to provide hotel rooms for cancellations that cause passengers to wait overnight.
American Airlines will offer accommodations long as the cancellations aren’t caused by something the airline cannot control, such as weather. The airline also outlines that it will cover transportation to and from the hotel.
Southwest followed suit by restricting hotel stays to cancellations beyond its control and announced it’ll be provided “upon request if available.”