Meals, Hotels Should Be Free If Your Flight Is Delayed

  • Pete Buttigieg sent a letter to 9 major US air carriers on Thursday, calling travel chaos “unacceptable.”
  • The transportation chief said airlines should give delayed passengers meal and hotel vouchers.
  • Most US airlines already give out hotel vouchers, although not for issues out of their control.

In a letter that was sent to 9 major airlines on Thursday, US transportation chief Pete Buttigieg said US air carriers should pay for meals and hotels for travelers facing delays, Bloomberg first reported.

In the letter, Buttigieg called summer flight cancellations and delays “unacceptable” and shared data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) that showed US air carriers canceled 3.2% and delayed 24% of domestic flights during the first six months of the year.

“These aren’t just numbers,” Buttigieg said in the letter. “These are missed birthdays, parties, graduations, time with loved ones and important meetings.”

The transportation chief said that US airlines should provide passengers who have flight delays of 3 hours or more with meal vouchers and travelers who are stranded overnight should receive free lodging. Buttigieg said the DOT will launch a new website ahead of Labor Day weekend to keep travelers apprised of airline policies related to flight delays and cancellations.

“Regardless of the cause of the delays or cancellations, the department expects airlines to provide timely and responsive customer service during and after periods of flight disruptions,” Buttigieg said.

The letter comes after a summer of thousands of delays and cancellations. In the letter, Buttigieg warned DOT is considering adding new regulations in light of the travel chaos.

There aren’t currently any federal laws in the US that require airlines to provide free food or hotel vouchers when a flight is delayed or canceled. Several air carriers provide hotel vouchers in some rare instances, although Insider’s Hannah Towey previously reported the airlines don’t provide the vouchers if a flight is delayed or canceled for reasons outside of the company’s control.

Industry group Airlines for America issued a statement in response to Buttigieg’s letter, CBS reported. The group referenced the industry’s “tight labor market” and weather conditions that have negatively impacted US flights.

“Carriers strive to provide the highest level of customer service and look forward to working with the DOT to continue providing transparency for the traveling public,” Airlines for America told CBS.

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