transport secretary Pete Buttigieg called the rise in nationwide flight cancellations and delays “unacceptable” and warned airlines that his department may take action if carriers do not provide more transparency about the reasons for the disruptions.
Buttigieg wrote letters to several U.S. airline CEOs this week and called the level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer “unacceptable.”
Buttigieg asked airline CEOs to provide at least accommodation to passengers stranded overnight at an airport and distribute meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more when the disruption is caused by something within the control of the airline company.
The transport department says the letters were sent to the CEOs of 10 US airlines, including the majors, their regional subsidiaries and low-cost carriers.
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Buttigieg’s agency recently proposed rules regarding refunds for passengers whose flights are canceled or postponed. He told CEOs the department was considering additional rules “that would further expand the rights of airline passengers experiencing disruptions.”
Buttigieg has argued with airlines since late spring over a high number of cancellations and delays, but said in his letter he appreciates the airlines have stepped up hiring and cut schedules to better match. the number of flights they can handle.
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A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group whose members include American, United, Delta and Southwest, said the airlines “strive to provide the highest level of customer service”. She said airlines are committed to overcoming challenges including a tight labor market.
Staff shortages have caused a significant amount of flight cancellations and delays throughout the summer, which analysts say would have been even worse had the airlines not cut their schedules.
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Earlier this summer, Nicholas Calio, president of the Airlines for America trade group, said its member carriers had cut flights they had originally scheduled through August by 15%, while ramping up hiring and training for combat problems and become more reliable for passengers.
The problems persisted as demand increased to pre-pandemic levelsforcing some carriers to reduce their schedules for the fall.
Associated Press contributed to this report