Newsweek: Amid Record Flight Disruptions, Critics Question Why DOT Not Cracking Down

August 14, 2022 Media

John Yoon was expecting a two-hour trip home to Montreal after visiting family in Philadelphia. Instead, he got four flight cancellations over five days, a $500 car rental and a 10-hour drive.

Yoon was successively booked, canceled and rebooked on the same flight, something that would not come as a surprise to anyone who knew the flight’s or the airline’s history.

The flight Yoon booked was sold and scheduled by Air Canada and was to be flown by its largest Air Canada Express regional carrier, Jazz Aviation. With more than 37,000 scheduled U.S. flights in 2022, Jazz is the nation’s busiest foreign airline and subject to both U.S. and Canadian regulations.

Yoon’s flight may be an extreme example—from an airline with several of them—of what some experts say are the real reasons 2022 is on track to have more cancellations than almost any other. It is not bad weather, a shortage of pilots or COVID-19, but rather airlines failing to adjust schedules as a result of those challenges or regulators failing to stop them from doing so.

Consumer advocate and aviation expert William McGee, of the American Economic Liberties Project, said the transportation department has failed to use its power to enforce regulations in the face of an unprecedented summer of cancellations.

“A lot of this is squarely on (Transportation Secretary Pete) Buttigieg to step up and start protecting consumers because this has been unacceptable,” McGee said.

McGee said the airline industry has a high rate of passengers not using vouchers they may have accepted for a canceled flight, something that could boost profits. He said no one outside the airlines knows whether the carriers are intentionally scheduling flights they cannot fulfill, but the DOT can find out through an enforcement action.

“Regulations are only as good as their enforcement. And, you know, we have not seen a lot of evidence of DOT enforcing it for U.S. airlines let alone foreign airlines, but they should,” McGee said. “The fact is, if you’re advertising the product, then you have to deliver it and that’s what it comes down to.”