Remember the 274 passengers stranded by U.S. Airways in Punta Cana? According to the airline, compensating those passengers would be unsafe. Seriously, that’s their argument:
“In order to ensure that all carriers remain focused on safety, aviation regulations do not require airlines to pay compensation for consequential expenses because of delayed or canceled flights.”
Come on, U.S. Air, at least make up interesting bullshit. Compensating passengers could resurrect mighty Rodan, whose insatiable hunger for man-blood would imperil plump business-class passengers. Stuff like that.
Here’s the rest of their letter:
I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you experienced when Flight 1860 was cancelled due to Air Traffic Control. You have every right to expect our flights to operate as scheduled. We certainly don’t intend to cause difficulties for our customers and realize that any service failure, even when the cancellation is mandated by Air Traffic Control, creates a negative impression of our company.
All airlines must adhere to the instructions given by the airport’s traffic tower. We realize the cancellation of your flight was a frustrating situation; however, the flight was cancelled in conjunction with airport conditions and information from the airport tower.
Deteriorated weather conditions made flying to Philadelphia an impossibility. It became apparent an improvement in this situation was not going to happen. Safety considerations are paramount to all concerned and override flight schedules. We realize this was a frustrating situation; however, the flight was cancelled for safety reasons.
In order to ensure that all carriers remain focused on safety, aviation regulations do not require airlines to pay compensation for consequential expenses because of delayed or canceled flights. This would include such items as hotel expenses, telephone calls, lost wages, missed meetings and other personal expenses including purchasing alternate transportation.
I’m sincerely sorry for the difficulties and the inconvenience you experienced on this trip. Regretfully, per policy and guidelines this is not a compensation issue.
Technically, U.S. Airways is correct in that neither the contract of carriage nor federal regulations compel the airline to offer anything, including an apology letter. Still, as travel-meister Chris Elliot points out, “the federal government doesn’t force us” isn’t good enough.
…common sense tells you it should do something, even if it means sending them a couple of hundred bucks in vouchers that will be impossible to redeem (or that the passengers will refuse to redeem). But “this is not a compensation issue” is unacceptable.
So what would the right response look like? Could any airline offer a response we’d find acceptable? Compare U.S. Airways’ response to Southwest’s classy handling of a 2-hour delayed flight.