Should airlines be responsible for travel delays? Commuters have a chance to weigh in – NBC Chicago

It’s been a tumultuous travel season, with last-minute flight changes, delays and, worst of all, flight cancellations outright, causing anxiety and grief at some airport gates.

Nerves are especially high in advance of the upcoming popular Labor Day holiday weekend.

And now, there’s at least one thing you can do: share your travel experiences, concerns and concerns with the necessary passenger safety regulators.

The new rules being considered now could lead to a smoother journey for all passengers.

The Department of Transport said that so far in 2022, one flight out of four has been delayed and three flights out of 100 have been cancelled.

The Seyfried family outside of Homewood saw this first hand.

Three generations of their family – grandmother, daughter and granddaughter – flew to Europe earlier this month.

It was a trip they said they had been looking forward to all summer.

“The end was everything we could have hoped for,” said daughter Jessica Seyfried.

“[Jessica] Received a text or email from the airline saying the flight was cancelled,” Seyfried’s mother Janine said.

The Seyfried family’s trip to Europe was going well, until their flight back to Chicago was unexpectedly canceled, with no explanation as to why.

Their flight from Dublin to Chicago was canceled early one Irish morning, as they headed to the airport. They said they had not received any explanation from their airlines as to why the cancellation was made.

The only information they received was that the next flight was three days later.

“We can’t stay here two more days,” said Janine Seyfried, a public school teacher who had to return to Chicago to prepare for the fall semester.

Jessica Seyfried’s daughter and high school sophomore, Madison Seyfried, said she made it a point to keep her mother and grandmother calm.

“I could see my mom scared, I could see my grandma scared,” Madison Seyfried said. “It was very stressful.”

In the end, the Seyfried family had to find their own way home, booking a flight on an alternative airline. Still, Madison Seyfried said she learned an unexpected lesson about the current flight.

“We’re so advanced in technology that I didn’t think it would happen. I thought the airlines would be able to figure it out in a few minutes, but it took a whole day,” she said. “It was just shocking to me.”

The airline industry ultimatum

The feds have blamed airlines for high rates of flight cancellations and delays, accusing the companies of overbooking flights.

Trade groups representing airlines say they are facing pilot shortages and overall staffing challenges, and that this has led to travel disruptions.

Airlines say they have issued $21 billion in refunds since the start of the pandemic, proof that each company is complying with the current rules and regulations surrounding when a passenger should be refunded or paid a flight voucher.

But now, the feds are questioning whether those rules are enough. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told the Today Show last week that airlines must do a better job of helping passengers when they experience delays or cancellations.

Buttegieg is giving the airline industry an ultimatum: Make improvements to passenger rights yourself, or new laws will do it for you.

“I’m giving them a chance to raise the bar,” Buttigieg said.

In addition, the DOT is developing a website that will boil down each airline’s policies regarding cancellations and delays into one place. The goal is to launch that website by Labor Day weekend.

“The message to the airlines is that you have to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights,” Butegigue said.

Newly Offered Airline Refund Protection

Meanwhile, stronger protections for passengers’ rights are in the works, but first, the feds are seeking passenger input on what needs to change.

Prompted by growing complaints, new proposed rules by the DOT could guarantee your right to cash refunds, meals, hotel and future flight vouchers if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed due to reasons within the airline’s control.

Over the years, airlines have been mandated to provide refunds or flight vouchers in case of flight cancellations or significant changes.

Now, the new rules will define what constitutes a “significant change” to a flight, including: a delay of three hours or more in the departure or arrival time of a domestic flight, six hours for international flights, or changes to the originally scheduled airport. to land on or take off from.

“Significant changes” under the new rules will also include any itinerary changes that increase the number of connecting flights a passenger needs to take to reach their destination.

The rules also include a proposed voucher system for passengers whose flights have to be canceled due to COVID-19 or future illnesses.

The DOT said, “The proposal would require airlines and ticket agents to provide passengers with flight credits or vouchers that are valid indefinitely when passengers are unable to fly for certain pandemic-related reasons, such as government-imposed travel restrictions, closed borders, or travelers’ health.” or advised not to travel to protect the health of other passengers.”

If approved, the new rules won’t go into effect until next year, at the earliest. Scott Keyes is a travel advocate, author and founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a website that helps travelers find the best deals on airfare.

Keyes says the proposed changes here could be monumental.

“If enacted into law, it would be the largest expansion of passenger rights in decades,” Keyes said.

Those changes are not yet finalized, and the traveling public has a chance to affect them.

The Transport Management Department is asking for public information within the next three months. Your voice, your opportunity to weigh in on the rules you may need to rely on years from now.

Keys says the flying public must take advantage of this opportunity, or the airlines will have their say.

“It’s important for individual travelers to have their voices heard here, so that it’s not just the airlines and their lobbyists in the industry who are shaping what ultimately becomes law here,” Keyes told NBC 5. “Because at the end of the day, it’s us individual travelers who are affected by these regulations.”

How to comment on the new flight rules

Here’s how you can share your story, and comment on DOT’s new rules:

1. Visit the “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)” website for this particular proposal linked here.

2. Under the “Browse Documents” section, find the “Proposed Rule” titled “Airline Refunds and Consumer Protection.”

3. Click the blue “Comment” button

4. Share your thoughts in the comments section. DOT recommends keeping comments, whether they are in support of or in disagreement with the regulatory action, constructive, clear, and concise. Comments that follow those guidelines “will be more likely to influence a regulatory decision,” the agency says.

5. It is optional to share your email address, you don’t have to.

6. Choose whether you want to be identified as representing an individual, organization, or if you want to share your opinion anonymously.

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