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After summer of flight delays and cancellations, DOT plans passenger rights website

After a harrowing summer for air travelers that saw delayed and canceled flights, the federal government is taking additional action to help beleaguered passengers.

The Department for Transport tells airlines they must come up with their own improvements to customer service or the agency will proceed with a plan to order a rule change.

The department is also creating a website, slated for launch in two weeks, which it hopes will easily display each airline’s policies regarding cancellations and delays.

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the travel disruptions unacceptable.

“The message to airlines is that you need to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights. And you have to help passengers when they experience delays or cancellations,” he said in an interview that aired Friday on TODAY.

In the first six months of the year, 24% of US flights were delayed and 3.2% were canceled, according to Transportation Department data.

The ministry says airlines bear the greatest blame, for overscheduling flights and then offering confusing rules on cash refunds and vouchers.

The airlines say there are a shortage of pilots. American airlines said in july that it could take three years to return to full capacity nationwide, citing a lack of pilots.

The busy summer travel season has caused headaches holiday weekendsand delays and cancellations have added to the misery of people who are already paying high ticket prices. Labor Day weekend, which sees a large number of travelers, is only two weeks away.

The Transportation Department earlier this month announcement a proposed new rule to strengthen the protections for travelers requesting a refund from the airlines. He said that since 2020 he had received “a flood of complaints about airline services”.

This new rule would make domestic flights delayed by three hours eligible for reimbursement (six hours for international), as well as flights whose destination airport is changed, according to the department.

The airline industry said in a statement that its members comply with federal laws and rules regarding cash refunds, and that “carriers strive to provide the highest level of customer service and are committed to working with travelers to respond to their personal situation”.

Travel experts suggest always having a backup plan in case something goes wrong, and if passengers can fly earlier in the day, they should.

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