Airline Passenger Rights Improved and Made Easily Accessible with New DOT Dashboard

Airline Passenger Rights Improved and Made Easily Accessible with New DOT Dashboard

With the Sept. 1 launch of its new dashboard, the Department of Transportation encourages transparency and ease of access for airline passenger rights and recent policy changes.
Passenger looking at departures screen

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg spearheaded the launch of a new DOT dashboard, outlining passenger rights when it comes to flight cancellations and significant delays. After sending a letter to airline CEOs indicating his plans to make current policies more transparent for passengers, nine out of the 10 largest U.S. airlines made significant updates to their protocols, making them more passenger-friendly before the Sept. 1 launch date. Given the recent airline chaos causing unprecedented flight cancellations and delays, these changes come at a pivotal moment for passengers.

Now live, this dashboard lays out each of the major U.S. airlines' current policies for what passengers are entitled to in the case of controllable cancellations and delays.

According to Secretary Buttigieg: "This dashboard collects that information in one place so travelers can easily understand their rights, compare airline practices and make informed decisions. The Department will continue to support passengers and to hold airlines responsible for adhering to their customer obligations."

This development is in line with other recent and proposed upcoming changes the Department of Transportation is taking to improve airline passenger rights. In the past year, the DOT has called on airlines to seat families together without charge, fined airlines that violated tarmac delay regulations and created the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, the first of its kind. In addition, the DOT has proposed a rule that would improve passenger rights to refunds when flights are canceled or significantly delayed, for COVID-19 related concerns and other such issues.

What are you entitled to when your flight is canceled or significantly delayed?

The new Airline Customer Service Dashboard outlines passenger rights for both controllable delays and cancellations. The 10 major U.S. airlines included on the dashboard are Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United. Of these, American, Delta, JetBlue and United offer commitment to every policy, for both cancellations and delays. Allegiant is the only airline listed that doesn’t offer its commitment to any of the policies mentioned.

Here are each airline's current passenger policies:

Alaska

While Alaska Airlines is nearly adherent to all of the listed cancellation and delay policies, it will not rebook passengers on another airline at no cost should they incur a cancellation or significant delay.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes

Allegiant

Allegiant is the only airline that failed to make changes to its delay and cancellation policies ahead of the dashboard launch. As such, they do not currently commit to any of the listed policies for passenger rights.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: No
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: No
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: No
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: No
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: No
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: No
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: No
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: No

American

American Airlines offers 100% of the mentioned policies for both controllable delays and cancellations, putting them among the top airlines for passenger rights.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes

Delta

Delta is another of the top airlines for passenger rights — it offers its commitment to each of the policies listed, both for cancellations and delays. Delta offers one of the most consumer-friendly airline loyalty programs, as Delta SkyMiles are easy to accrue and put towards free flights.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes

Frontier

As Frontier is a budget airline, it's to be expected that its cancellation and delay policies are less forgiving than some of the other major carriers. Frontier Airlines only adheres to a few of the commitments listed, so it may not be the best choice if you're concerned about a delay or cancellation.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: No
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: No
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: No
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: No

Hawaiian

Hawaiian Airlines is nearly compliant with all cancellation and delay policies listed, but will not rebook passengers on another airline should they encounter significant delays.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes

JetBlue

JetBlue offers its commitment to every policy mentioned, for both cancellations and delays.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes

Southwest

Though Southwest doesn't offer the full amount of consumer cancellation and delay benefits, it comes pretty close. It's also an airline known for its own flexible policies, like allowing passengers two free checked bags and eliminating the expiration date on flight credits.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes

Spirit

While Spirit still comes in ahead of Allegiant with its policies on cancellations and delays, as a budget carrier, it's still lacking in a couple of major areas.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: No
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: No
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: No

United

United ranks as a top airline for passenger rights, as it offers 100% of the mentioned policies both for cancellations and delays. The airline’s MileagePlus program offers numerous perks and benefits to frequent flyers, though the value of United miles is slightly below other major airlines.

  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for three hours or more for new flight: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight cancellation: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on same airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Rebook passenger on another airline at no additional cost for significant delays: Yes
  • Meal or meal cash/voucher when flight delay results in passenger waiting 3 hours or more: Yes
  • Complimentary hotel accommodations for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes
  • Complimentary ground transportation to and from hotel for any passenger affected by an overnight delay: Yes

How can passengers make sure their rights are met?

While having your passenger rights laid out in a simple, easy-to-reference way is certainly a step in the right direction, it's only half the battle. Making sure you’re actually compensated for flight delays and cancellations in practice may be slightly more complicated.

Here are a few steps you can take when your flight is canceled or significantly delayed:

  1. Know your rights. Step one is knowing what you're entitled to — that's where the DOT dashboard comes in.
  2. Keep all documentation. All receipts, flight numbers, delay or cancellation notices and anything else relating to your trip will come in handy during the compensation process — so make sure you don't toss anything out.
  3. File a claim with your airline. To officially begin the process, you'll need to file a claim. You can do this either by calling your airline directly or filling out a form on its website.
  4. Fill out all requested forms within a timely manner. You'll want to make sure you're within the allotted window for your claim to be submitted and processed.
  5. Follow up with your claim. If your claim is taking longer than expected to process, make sure you follow up with your airline until your case is resolved.