Fast Facts About: DOT’s Plan Requiring Airlines to Compensate Passengers

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For the first time in U.S. history, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is initiating rulemaking that would require airlines to compensate passengers and cover certain expenses for controllable flight delays and cancellations.

What is a controllable flight cancellation or delay?

According to the Airline Cancellation and Delay Dashboard, "A controllable flight cancellation or delay is essentially a delay or cancellation caused by the airline. Examples include maintenance or crew problems; cabin cleaning; baggage loading; and fueling."

DOT’s planned rulemaking would make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory. At present, the 10 largest airlines guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard.

DOT has expanded its Airline Customer Service Dashboard to give travelers more transparency about the types of compensation, if any, airlines currently guarantee when they are the cause of a cancelation or delay. 

The department’s proposed rule on Airline Ticket Refunds, if adopted, would:

1) require airlines to proactively inform passengers that they have a right to receive a refund when a flight is canceled or significantly changed

2) define a significant change and cancellation that would entitle a consumer to a refund as more than three hours for a domestic flight, and more than six hours for an international flight

3) require airlines to provide non-expiring vouchers or travel credits when people cannot travel because they have COVID-19 or other communicable diseases

4) require airlines that receive significant government assistance in the future related to a pandemic to issue refunds instead of non-expiring travel credits or vouchers when passengers are unable or advised not to travel because of a serious communicable disease

DOT’s rules, guidance and orders, the department’s aviation consumer website can be found at