Why airlines don't have to pay passengers after computer meltdowns

WASHINGTON -- Passengers should have the right to compensation after computer scheduling problems lead to canceled and significantly delayed flights, a consumer travel group said after Delta Air Lines suffered a computer crash this week.

Passengers were left to sleep on the floors of airports as Delta grounded hundreds of flights worldwide.

"Congress is going to have to change the law," said Charlie Leocha, the founder of Travelers United.

There is no federal law requiring airlines to provide compensation to passengers for mismanaged flights. European countries have laws requiring airlines to feed passengers and pay for hotel costs for flights with significant schedule changes.

"The American flying public should not be liable and should not be punished for the failures of Delta," Leocha said.

The airline says it's offering compensation to customers who were significantly affected by delays or cancelations. Customers experiencing a delay of more than three hours, or a canceled flight, could receive $200 in vouchers for future travel.

Delta also said in some cases, customers were provided with hotel rooms or other accommodations.

Other travel experts say this is not an area where Congress needs to step in.

"It's not a safety issue so Congress doesn't need to act there," said Rui Neiva, a policy analyst at the Eno Center for Transportation. "It's mostly a business issue and people will vote with their wallets if this keeps happening to an airline continuously."