Biden administration wants Congress to mandate flight delay compensation

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration has submitted draft legislation to Congress that would mandate airlines pay cash compensation for delays of three hours or more when carriers are responsible.

The proposal sent earlier this week and seen by Reuters would require “cash compensation in an amount commensurate with the inconvenience experienced” when a delay or cancellation is due in part or in whole to an issue under the carrier’s control. It comes as House of Representatives and Senate committees are working on draft legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration that could be debated as early as next week.

Biden in May said the administration was writing new rules to require airlines to compensate passengers with cash for significant flight delays, but legislation from Congress would significantly bolster the administration’s legal authority. Congress must act to extend the legal authority of the FAA to operate by Sept. 30.

The Biden administration also wants Congress to write new rules to require transparency for baggage and other ancillary fees when booking a ticket.

The Transportation Department last year asked carriers whether they would agree to pay at least $100 for delays of at least three hours caused by airlines. So far none have agreed and several airlines have spoken out publicly against the proposed rules.

USDOT has said it plans to write regulations that will require airlines to cover expenses such as meals and hotels if carriers are responsible for stranding passengers. Most carriers voluntarily committed last August to provide hotels or meals but resisted providing cash compensation for delays.

The administration also wants Congress to mandate an increase to the recording time of cockpit voice recorders from the currently 2-hour loop to a proposed 25-hour loop for all future manufactured aircraft.

There is no legal requirement for airlines to compensate U.S. passengers for delayed or canceled flights, but the European Union and some other countries require compensation of up to 600 euros ($663) for most significant delays.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)