Passengers, on the other hand, will likely appreciate the gesture.
Pete Buttigieg is just not messing around.
The former presidential candidate and mayor turned Secretary of Transportation is well aware that, at the moment, the state of air travel is suboptimal for the consumer. Flight delays and outright cancellations have become more common, as has lost luggage and other headaches.
In response, Buttigieg has placed a number of ultimatums on the airline industry, and has also announced a number of proposals that the industry surely will not love.
Onlookers have theorized that this might be a way for Buttigieg to keep his name in the headlines, in case President Biden declines to run for re-election. (Though Biden has repeatedly stated he intends to run for another term.) And it certainly doesn’t hurt Buttigieg’s Q ratings that he is addressing a national pain point by taking on an industry that many people are frustrated with.
And based on the Department of Transportation’s latest move, Buttigieg has no intention of backing down any time soon.
What Did The Department of Transportation Do This Time?
The Department of Transportation has proposed a rule that requires sellers of airline tickets, including airlines like Delta (DAL) – Get Delta Air Lines Inc. Report and United (UAL) – Get United Airlines Holdings Inc. Report, as well as third-party retailers like Travelocity, to disclose all extra fees upfront, at the first time an airfare is displayed, so customers will know the exact price before they commit.
This includes baggage fees, fees to change a flight, cancellation fees, fees to sit with your children, “whenever fare and schedule information is provided for flights to, within and from the U.S.,” the DOT said in a news release, adding “the proposal seeks to provide customers the information they need to choose the best deal. Otherwise, surprise fees can add up quickly and overcome what may look at first to be a cheap fare.”
Under the proposal, all added fees would be required to be displayed as passenger-specific or itinerary-specific, based on the consumer’s choice.
“Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket,” said Pete Buttigieg. “This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which will help travelers make informed decisions and save money.”
The proposal would also make it so that, despite fluctuations in ticket price, carriers and ticket agents would be required to let consumers traveling with a young child to purchase the seats with the stated fare at all points of sale.
Additionally, the proposal would require carriers to provide usable, current, and accurate information regarding baggage fees, change fees, cancellation fees, and adjacent seating fees for families traveling with young children, if any, to ticket agents that sell or display the carrier’s fare and schedule information.
Secretary Pete Has Really Been on The Airlines’ Case Lately
Earlier this summer, Buttigieg announced a proposal that would expand customer rights, in terms of protections for cancelations and refunds for both domestic and international flights.
It would entitle passengers to a refund if their flight is canceled, or if departure or arrival times are delayed by at least three hours for domestic flights or by at least six hours for international flights and the customer opts out of taking the flight.
Customers would also be entitled to a refund if the departure or arrival airport changes or the number of connections is increased on an itinerary, or if the original aircraft has to be replaced by another but there’s a major difference in the onboard amenities offered and overall travel experience as a result.
“This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines,” states Buttigieg.
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He also told the airline industry in a letter to get their act together, basically, chiding them for the increased cancellations and delays, and noting “These aren’t just numbers. These are missed birthday parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings.”
He also demanded that airlines provide meal vouchers to any passenger that has to wait more than three hours, and that travelers that are stranded overnight should receive free lodging.
And in an effort to keep the pressure up, the Department of Transportation recently launched a feature on its website that lets travelers compare what amenities airlines offer to customers during delays and cancellations.