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Biden proposes new rule to hold airlines accountable



President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a new proposed rule to hold airline companies accountable for flight delays and cancellations.

To reduce costs for American travelers amid increased cancellations and delays at airports, the Biden administration announced a “historic” new rule that would make it mandatory for all U.S. airlines to compensate consumers when a delay or cancellation is within the company’s control.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg looks on at an announcement of new airline regulations in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on May 8, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Department of Transportation also updated its airline customer service dashboard via FlightRights.gov to give travelers more transparency about airline compensation policies at individual companies. 

While announcing the new actions on Monday inside the White House South Court Auditorium, Buttigieg emphasized how commuting by air is a universal mode of travel that millions of Americans rely on.  

“We depend on airlines to get us to weddings, vacations and job interviews that often wind up being some of the most important and memorable events in our lives,” said the transportation secretary. “You count on that airline to provide the service that you paid for. We’re here today to share the latest steps that we’re taking to ensure that airlines do just that.”

A recent report released by the Government Accountability Office found that most of the increased travel disruptions of late 2021 and early 2022 were at the fault of airline companies.

President Biden noted that the new rule, which will be formally proposed later this year, would require airlines to compensate travelers for the cost of meals, hotels, ground transportation and other fees.

“That’s all on top of refunding the cost of your ticket,” he explained. “I know these things may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most middle-class families.”

A passenger checks in for a JetBlue flight at O’Hare International Airport on April 6, 2022, in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

During his remarks, the president highlighted a study that found when the European Union took a similar approach to ensure airline passengers were compensated, the number of flight disruptions decreased.

Reacting to President Biden’s new airline proposal and actions, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a senior member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and Aviation Subcommittee, said in a statement to theGrio that “more transparency and accountability are never a bad thing – particularly for consumers and the flying public.”

Johnson added that he looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration and airline companies “during the rule-making and public comment process” to determine “the best way to balance the needs of consumers and the airline industry.”

As President Biden enters the first couple of weeks of his 2024 reelection campaign amid a sliding approval rating, the administration will be sure to tout any and all of its success in the months to come. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday boasted that a year ago, no U.S. airline guaranteed compensation beyond the price of a ticket when a flight was delayed or canceled. 

She noted, “Thanks to President Biden’s urging, nine major airlines cover hotels, 10 airlines cover meals, and 10 airlines now rebook passengers for free.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on May 8, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Jean-Pierre took questions from reporters on the recent mass shooting in Allen, Texas, and the upcoming debt ceiling talks with congressional leadership. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

She added, “These announcements build on the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to promote competition in the American economy and lower costs for hard-working Americans.”

President Biden has also called out airline companies for junk fees that disproportionately burden Black and brown travelers. “They’re unfair, and they hit marginalized Americans the hardest, especially low-income folks and people of color,” he previously said. 

On Monday, Biden called Congress to pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act, which would “limit and eliminate excessive, hidden, and unnecessary fees imposed on consumers.”

“That’s what American consumers deserve,” said Biden, adding, “This is just about being fair.”

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