Pete Buttigieg Says Airlines Need to Make Air Travel Better

And the former Mayor Pete wants to make sure you get a nice meal, as well.

It’s not just your imagination. Flying really has been getting worse this year. In addition to the lost luggage and unruly customers, flights are getting canceled and delayed more and more often.

The reasons for the cancellations range from pilot shortages to storms and other natural events exacerbated by climate change. But the end result is that more and more often, it’s taking longer and longer for people to get anywhere. 

That’s only somewhat of an exaggeration, mind you. According to information released by the Department of Transportation, 3.2% of U.S. flights were canceled and 24% were delayed during the first six months of the year. As noted by FlightAware, “this is up from a 2.1% cancellation rate and 17.2% delay percentage during the same period in 2019.”

No one’s happy about this. But do you know who is especially not happy about this? Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who sent a strongly worded letter to 9 major airlines, telling them to get their act together. The man formerly known as Mayor Pete also thinks these airlines owe us a dinner for our troubles.

Mayor Pete Tells The Airlines To Get Their Act Together

As noted by PhocusWire, Buttigieg politely told the airlines to do better, calling the delays unacceptable. “These aren’t just numbers,” Buttigieg said in the letter. “These are missed birthday, parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings.”

One of Buttigieg’s demands is 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.

“I urge you to take this opportunity to assess your Customer Service Plan to ensure that it guarantees adequate services and amenities to help passengers with expenses and inconveniences due to delays and cancellations,” Buttigieg writes.

“The department asks that airlines, at a minimum, provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport because of disruptions within the carrier’s control.”

Some airlines already have a policy of giving out hotel vouchers, but not if the flight cancellation is due to reasons they can’t control.

The Department of Transportation Wants To Keep The Airlines Honest

There are currently no federal laws requiring airlines to provide food or lodging for inconvenienced travelers.

While that may or may not change in the future, Secretary Buttigieg has another plan. On September 2, the Department of Transportation will launch a feature on its website that will let travelers compare what amenities airlines offer to customers during delays and cancellations. 

Will the the fear and embarrassment of looking cheap and inattentive to stranded customers, especially when compared to their competition, shame airlines into coughing up some vouchers? We’ll soon find out.

This is just Secretary Buttigieg’s latest salvo in an ongoing pressure campaign against the airline industry. Earlier this summer, he announced a proposal that would guarantee that customers would get a refund for a canceled flight or a flight delayed by more than three hours, if they chose not to take a later flight.

There is currently no uniform, industry wide cancellation policy, and many airlines give vouchers that expire within a year, which is very inconvenient for many customers.

The proposal would require airlines to issue vouchers, with no expiration date, when passengers are “unable to fly for certain pandemic-related reasons, such as government-mandated bans on travel, closed borders, or passengers advised not to travel to protect their health or the health of other passengers.”

But if an airline or ticket agency received pandemic-related government assistance, they would be required to issue cash refunds instead of vouchers.

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