This New Chart Tells Airline Passengers What They're Owed for Flight Disruptions

It's definitely a start

Passengers in airport terminal, elevated view
Greg Pease / Getty Images

We all know that travel has been a challenge this past year—and the horror stories are countless, from full boards of canceled and delayed flights to pilot strikes to luggage that either gets abandoned or lost entirely. But what we didn't know—until now—is exactly what kind of compensation we can expect from the airlines for the trouble. Now, we're one step closer, as the 10 major airlines in the U.S. recently released clearer-cut outlines of what they are responsible for in the case of a delay or cancellation.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg finally took action, writing to the airlines to say the Department of Transportation would publish a dashboard where airline passengers can see what they are owed depending on the circumstance. He gave them until the Friday before Labor Day weekend to update their policies around delays, cancellations, and lost luggage, taking the guesswork (and fancy footwork) out of the equation. 

American, Alaska, Allegiant, JetBlue, Delta, United, Southwest, Spirit, Hawaiian, and Frontier have all spelled out what passengers can expect to receive in the case of "controllable delays" and "controllable cancellations," meaning delays and cancellations that are not due to weather or acts of god. 

While each airline will have its policies outlined on its website, the DOT has created a handy online comparison chart so passengers can easily access and compare the information. The chart lists benefits and compensation and notes whether or not an airline will provide it to passengers in the given circumstance.

Currently, American, Delta, United, and JetBlue are the only airlines offering every benefit listed for both controllable cancellations and controllable delays, including rebooking on the same airline or a different airline free of charge, meal or cash vouchers when a passenger wait exceeds three hours, free hotel for delays or cancellations that result in the need for an overnight stay, and complimentary transportation to and from the provided hotel. The least accommodating airline is Frontier.

Additionally, in the case of significant delays or flight cancellations, airlines must promptly refund passengers who decline to be rebooked. 

The DOT has also stated that this is just the beginning. They're also looking for public feedback on whether airline seating is too cramped, whether airlines should legally have to inform passengers when they are eligible for benefits and compensation, and whether airlines should have to issue non-expiring travel credits to passengers who cancel due to COVID-19 infection or outbreaks. They also weigh in on if airlines should be required to clearly define significant delays or the types of cancellations that would make a passenger eligible for benefits. 

"Passengers deserve transparency and clarity on what to expect from an airline when there is a cancellation or disruption," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "This dashboard collects that information in one place so travelers can easily understand their rights, compare airline practices, and make informed decisions. The Department [of Transportation] will continue to support passengers and to hold airlines responsible for adhering to their customer obligations."

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  1. The Washington Post. "In Letter to Airline CEOs, Buttigieg Calls Disruptions 'Unacceptable'." August 19, 2022.

  2. U.S. Department of Transportation. "Airline Customer Service Dashboard." Accessed Sept. 6, 2022.

  3. U.S. Department of Transportation. "Ahead of Labor Day, DOT Launches New Dashboard to Help Air Travelers Know Their Rights When They Experience Flight Disruptions Caused by Airline." Sept. 1, 2022.