It was a busy Labor Day weekend at airports across the country, with air travel reaching pre-pandemic highs, surpassing levels of the same 2019 holiday weekend.
But the post-pandemic travel surge, combined with labor shortages, has left many travelers frustrated with flight delays and cancellations. A new online tool could help travelers navigate air travel complications with charts comparing the cancellation and delay policies of the country’s major airlines.
The Department for Transport has unveiled what it calls the Airline Customer Service Dashboard, which allows passengers to see what they are entitled to if their flight is canceled or significantly delayed. The charts contain green checkmarks or red Xs next to the country’s top 10 airline policies for new bookings, hotel accommodations, meal vouchers and more.
“According to the Department for Transport, the very fact that they put it in place required the airlines to make commitments on a variety of things, including meals and hotel vouchers,” said Robert Silk, editor in aviation chief for Travel Weekly magazine and website. “Airlines were already doing it, but now it’s written. It’s a small step, but I think it’s a good step. A lot of it depends on people’s awareness.”
But travel industry experts say the airlines’ promises are probably only as good as the Transport Department’s enforcement.
“The DOT doesn’t have a great enforcement and fines record for airlines,” Silk says. “Historically the DOT hasn’t had a lot of teeth in their enforcement and they’ve been criticized for it.”
DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman said it’s a natural tension between passengers who want to fly as cheaply as possible and want airlines to be accommodating when problems arise.
“Fortunately, airlines have strong incentives to provide a better passenger experience and follow their national policies, not only because of the threat of re-regulation, but also to make employees’ jobs less stressful,” Schwieterman said. . “When irregularities occur in flight operations, it’s stressful for everyone.”