U.S. aviation ended 2023 on a better note for passengers with the lowest flight cancellation rate in at least 10 years, alongside expanded consumer protections for travelers.
A Positive for 2023 Aviation
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg commended the dedicated efforts of the nation’s aviation safety professionals, emphasizing the positive impact on travelers.
“We are glad to see this 10-year low rate of cancellations, and our Department will continue to take every step to ensure air travel is smooth and safe for passengers in the new year,” said Buttigieg.
With a cancellation rate below 1.2 percent, 2023 witnessed 16.3 million flights, marking the lowest cancellation rate in 10 years. The Transportation Security Administration reported that 2023 also set a new record as the busiest year for air travel.
Holiday Travel Triumph
A standout moment was the remarkably smooth travel experience during the Christmas and New Year’s period from December 17, 2023, to January 1, 2024.
Despite a record number of passengers during this festive season, the cancellation rate was a mere 0.8 percent, a stark improvement from the 8.2 percent recorded in the same period in 2022.
Increased Passenger Protections
Beyond operational improvements, the Department of Transportation (DOT) took proactive steps to enhance consumer protections.
Secretary Buttigieg’s advocacy for improved customer service resulted in a robust airline customer service dashboard.
Now, all major airlines commit to free rebooking and meals, with nine ensuring hotel accommodations in case of delays or cancellations.
Holding Airlines Accountable
Secretary Buttigieg’s commitment to passenger rights was evident in the $140 million penalty imposed on Southwest Airlines ahead of the 2022 holiday season.
This penalty, coupled with over $600 million in DOT-mandated refunds, aimed to rectify the airline’s shortcomings during the holiday meltdown.
Southwest Airlines is now obligated to establish a $90 million compensation system for future passengers facing significant delays or cancellations.
A Strong Stance for Consumer Rights
Under Secretary Buttigieg’s leadership, the DOT has facilitated the return of over $3 billion in refunds and reimbursements to travelers.
With record fines against airlines for service failures, the DOT is spearheading the most significant expansion of airline consumer rights in decades.
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