Air travel is about to get slightly more convenient for travellers to and from the USA, as proposals have been made to address massive flight delays that have been affecting travellers this year.
The U.S. Department Of Transportation proposed a new rule on Wednesday that seeks to clearly define what a "significant" delay means. It will help flyers better qualify for refunds when their flights are changed.
If the new rule is enacted, it will help "strengthen" protection for those flyers dealing with major delays and cancellations.
As of now, the rule is that passengers can request a refund when an airline has "made a significant schedule change and/or significantly delays a flight and the consumer chooses not to travel."
However, the agency has never clearly defined the term "significant" until now.
The new rule has proposed that this is what should count as a significant change:
- Domestic flights that are delayed by three or more hours, or international flights that are delayed by six or more hours;
- A change to the flight's departure or arrival airport;
- A change that increases the number of connections in the flight route;
- A change to the aircraft used for the flight that would cause "a significant downgrade in the air travel experience or amenities available onboard the flight."
Clearly defined rules should make it easier for passengers to qualify for refunds, whereas before, they were at the mercy of airlines who could use the nuanced rules to get their way, reported USA Today.
"The problem, I think, up until now has been that you as an individual traveller don't necessarily know what a significant delay on Delta, versus American, versus Southwest, versus Spirit is — it could be significantly different on each airline," Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, said to ABC News in an interview.
"And those airlines don't even necessarily mention explicitly what they consider to be a significant delay," he added.
The proposed changes come after over two years of constant turbulence among airlines and the aviation industry, which have been dealing with the pandemic, shortage of staff, and a lot of delayed flights.
In a statement, the DOT explained that "since early 2020, the Department has received a flood of air travel service complaints from consumers with nonrefundable tickets who did not travel because airlines cancelled or significantly changed their flights or because the consumers decided not to fly for pandemic-related reasons such as health concerns."
"This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travellers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines," said DOT secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The DOT has opened the discussion for public comment and is set to review and analyze the feedback after 90 days. The final rule could then be issued as proposed or with modifications, or be withdrawn altogether.