Major US airlines will not commit to boosting military travel benefits, USDOT says

Major US airlines will not commit to boosting military travel benefits, USDOT says

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Friday that major U.S. airlines have refused to commit to increasing travel benefits for military personnel, the latest clash between the Biden administration and air carriers .

Buttigieg had in April urged airlines to do more for military personnel and pledged to publicize the issue on a dashboard, but he said major carriers including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines , had refused to “make clear and enforceable commitments to American service members and their families.”

Airlines, which employ large numbers of veterans, insist they go beyond what USDOT measures in benefits, but some say they don’t want to add those benefits to customer service plans, which would then expose them to USDOT enforcement action if they fail to comply with these benefits. these commitments.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing America’s largest airlines, said the dashboard “shows only a fraction of what airlines offer their members” and that it “does not reflect the many benefits that airlines already offer.

The dashboard measures whether airlines will voluntarily agree to waive cancellation and change fees and guarantee full refunds to servicemembers and their families who cancel or reschedule travel plans due to military orders; offering free bags and the lowest fare for flights to visit service members recently injured in the line of duty.

“Military service members and their families make extraordinary commitments and sacrifices for this country, and they deserve support and recognition every time they step on a plane,” Buttigieg said.

Six of the ten airlines received no green checkmarks from USDOT, including the three largest airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

Allegiant and Spirit Airlines received four checks and Frontier three.

Southwest Airlines received two checkmarks due to its existing baggage and change fee policies applying to all passengers.

Airlines and the Biden administration have repeatedly clashed on several customer service fronts.

Earlier this month, major airlines sued USDOT over a new rule requiring advance disclosure of airline fees.

Airlines for America filed suit last month against USDOT rules requiring airlines and ticket agents to disclose service fees alongside the airfare, saying it would help consumers avoid unnecessary or unexpected charges.

USDOT has created other dashboards since 2022 measuring other airlines’ customer service benefits and was tasked by Congress with creating a new one on airline minimum seat sizes.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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