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New protections could be coming to airline passengers

The compensation would include ticket refunds when airlines are at fault for a flight being canceled or significantly delayed.

AUSTIN, Texas — The peak summer travel season is quickly approaching and, recently, the Biden Administration proposed new rules to compensate travelers if they're met with delays or cancellations.

The new regulations will require airlines to compensate travelers if they are stranded for reasons within the airline's control. This includes covering the cost of meals, hotel rooms and rebooking flights. 

After the holiday meltdown that left thousands of passengers stranded at airports last winter, Omar Kaywan, co-founder of Goose Insurance, said the Biden Administration is hearing the frustration from passengers.

"We have had a really sort of strange but also tumultuous sort of situation in the last six months or so. The holiday season was really bad for a lot of passengers," Kaywan said. "What we're hoping for the administration to look at is, first of all, under the air passenger protection, we need to make all the rules the same, regardless of what type of airline you're flying with, whether you're flying domestically or internationally."

The compensation is part of new rules that would include ticket refunds when airlines are at fault for a flight being canceled or significantly delayed. Officials at the Transportation Department, which will write the new rules, say there's not an exact date for when writing the rules will be finished, but they're working to quickly publish a notice that is required to get the process started.

However, this only applies to controllable airline cancellations. This would not include situations where the airline is not in full control, like storms or air traffic control issues. In those cases, airlines would not be required to compensate passengers aside from rebooking them on a different flight.

"Unfortunately, some of the low cost carriers that we have nationally – and they give you a credit voucher at best. So, you know, what if you can't go on a trip for a few months and what if you don't want a credit voucher? What happens if you want to go with another airline? So those are really the situations that we're trying to deal with," Kaywan said. 

Officials say this rule is not something that's will happen overnight. For those who are currently planning their summer travel trips, Kaywan said the best thing people can do to protect themselves financially is by using travel insurance. That way, you're compensated if your flight is delayed or canceled. 

"The insurance company typically offers meal vouchers and accommodations and a full refund or the nonrefundable portion of your your trip costs, including your accommodation and hotel costs as well," Kaywan said.

None of the major U.S. airlines offer cash for controllable cancellations or long delays. Only Alaska Airlines offers frequent-flyer miles, and only Alaska and JetBlue provide travel credits, according to the dashboard. 

President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will provide updates on the new proposed rule as it becomes available. 

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