The new FAA bill mandates that airlines tell passengers their rights when faced with computer system failures 


airline computer system failuresAs airline computer system failures multiply, Congress in the FAA bill tells airlines they must prominently post what services they provide impacted passengers. This was one of Travelers United’s most important issues as the FAA bill was being debated.

All airlines are having problems with their Information Technology (IT) systems. In recent months, American, Delta, Southwest, United, and British Airways have all faced airline IT failures. The biggest disasters struck Delta Air Lines as they were forced to ground all flights twice this year. The “wake-up call” has not seemed to work.

As airline operations and pricing are getting more and more complex, airline IT failures are happening with increasing frequency and to a greater technical extent. The airline systems are complex and cobbled together from bits and pieces of different airlines as mergers over recent years have reduced airline competition. Recent problems have had global ramifications.

Travelers realize that IT issues will be a problem. However, Travelers United holds that these IT problems are the fault of the airlines and passengers should be properly compensated for them. So far, when it comes to customer service, the legacy carriers are treating these IT issues as acts of God or force majure problems. They are not. These are failures to deliver scheduled service that are fully within the control of the airlines. Passengers should be compensated, not punished, for the airlines’ failures.

Finally, in FAA Bill Final HR 302, Congress is telling DOT to take IT failures into account and is requiring in the event of a widespread airline computer system failures, to prominently post online what services they will provide impacted passengers.

‘‘§ 42304. Widespread disruptions
‘‘(a) GENERAL REQUIREMENTS.—In the event of a widespread disruption, a covered air carrier shall immediately publish, via a prominent link on the air carrier’s public internet website, a clear statement indicating whether, with respect to a passenger of the air carrier whose travel is interrupted as a result of the widespread disruption, the air carrier will—

‘‘(1) provide for hotel accommodations;
‘‘(2) arrange for ground transportation;
‘‘(3) provide meal vouchers;
‘‘(4) arrange for air transportation on another air carrier
or foreign air carrier to the passenger’s destination; and
‘‘(5) provide for sleeping facilities inside the airport ter-
minal.

‘‘(b) DEFINITIONS.—In this section, the following definitions apply:
‘‘(1) WIDESPREAD DISRUPTION.—The term ‘widespread disruption’ means, with respect to a covered air carrier, the interruption of all or the overwhelming majority of the air carrier’s systemwide flight operations, including flight delays and cancellations, as the result of the failure of 1 or more computer systems or computer networks of the air carrier.
‘‘(2) COVERED AIR CARRIER.—The term ‘covered air carrier’ means an air carrier that provides scheduled passenger air transportation by operating an aircraft that as originally designed has a passenger capacity of 30 or more seats.”

The new bill mandates that airlines clearly tell passengers what services they will provide for their own failures. Will passengers be put on the next flight? Will travelers get some immediate compensation from airlines for food and accommodations during airline computer failure delays? Unfortunately, there are no fines included in this bill. Perhaps DOT will include them in the final regulations. Without stiff penalties, airlines can choose to allow their IT systems to be hobbled as they hoard soaring profits. The IT problems are growing. This prompted Congress to act.

The implementation of this provision of the FAA Bill should not be delayed.

Every day, airline passengers are bearing the burden of the airline IT and communications failures together with the delays and cancellations of thousands of flights. Families have missed weddings, organized tours and cruises. Businessmen have missed meetings. And, many others have been faced with financial repercussions because of information technology failure. The customer service offered by airlines has been poor or nonexistant.

take actionTravelers United has also called on the airlines to make their passengers whole and to tell passengers about their rights under international treaties and European Union rules for international flights.

This FAA Bill of 2018 is a first step. These issues need reimbursement or compensation from airlines to passengers. These airline computer failure incidents are not acts of God. The airlines are in full control and should be accountable.

Passengers affected by these airline information technology failures should contact www.airhelp.com to check on international compensation that they may be due from the airlines (especially international carriers) for their failures. This compensation can range from about $660 to more than $7,000. It is worth checking.

Currently, passengers are only due compensation for three areas. The fourth noted here is a start. Airlines will be required to tell passengers what services they can expect. Hopefully, in five years, consumers may be able to receive compensation from airlines as well.

1. Denied boarding compensation.
2. Lost/Damaged/Delayed checked baggage compensation
3. International flight delay compensation through EU rules and Montreal Convention
4. In the current FAA bill passengers will know what services airlines will provide in the case of airline computer failures.

Join us as we work to hold airlines accountable for their IT failures rather than saddling passengers with their losses from unattended family events, ruined vacations, lost reservations, missed business meetings, and unexpected overnights while awaiting the airline IT systems to be brought back online.