W.With the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown still on the minds of travelers, some US senators are trying again to ensure more protection for air passengers.
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey along with four colleagues on Tuesday reintroduced previously proposed bills dubbed the Passenger Bill of Rights and the Fair Fares Act. Both bills were introduced in the last Congress in late 2021 and failed to move forward.
“The Southwest Airlines debacle is making air travel more stressful, unpredictable and uncomfortable for passengers, so stronger passenger protections are urgently needed,” Senator Blumenthal said. “This law will establish clear and enforceable rules for airlines to follow, putting consumers first and putting sanity back in the skies.”
U.S. travelers receive less protection compared to passengers on European and Canadian airlines. One reason is that the airline industry has historically successfully defeated proposed laws.
“Airlines are going to have an army of lobbyists and lawyers fighting us,” Senator Blumenthal told reporters yesterday. I think we have a strong consumer movement in
Airlines for America, the trade group representing the big airlines, was rocked. “The policies proposed in this bill – enacting government-controlled pricing, establishing private action rights, and directing private sector contracting – would dramatically reduce competition and reduce subsequent airfares. and a potential reduction in services to small and rural communities,” the group said in an email. forbes.
“To the contrary, there is no evidence of market failure or unfair or deceptive practices in this area,” Airlines for America said. “In addition to other forms of compensation, the 11 largest U.S. passenger airlines have paid out $32.2 billion in customer refunds, equivalent to about $900 million per month, between January 2020 and December 2022. This includes $11.2 billion in 2022 alone, almost 50% more than in 2019.”
“Despite receiving $54 billion from Congress during the pandemic, airlines weren’t ready to take millions of passengers back to the skies,” Sen. Markey said at a press conference. “No wonder only 27% of Americans have a positive view of the aviation industry, a lower approval rating than Elon Musk or Kanye West.”
The senator doesn’t mention that the latest Gallup poll shows his approval rating in Congress is just 21%.
Last year, the government pushed airlines to be more transparent about their consumer rights rules. The Department of Transportation has launched the Aviation Consumer Protection Dashboard. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of what each airline offers in the event of a controllable delay or cancellation.
Among the provisions of Blumenthal’s bill are the reinstatement of the right of passengers to sue airlines for unfair and deceptive practices in federal and state courts, and the reinstatement of passengers’ unintentional boarding as a result of flight overselling. includes setting a minimum of $1,350 as compensation for rejected applications.
Blumenthal’s bill would also remove the cap on the fines the DOT could charge airlines for violating consumer protection laws, stating that “airlines could negotiate lower fines with a slap of the wrist for bad behavior.” prevent ”.
Last year, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection announced it had imposed civil penalties of $8.1 million.
Notably, however, only one of the penalized airlines was based in the United States. Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, which owed her $222 million to customers, was fined her $2.2 million civil by the DOT. Frontier made her $31 million profit last quarter alone.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at the time that passengers should receive refunds promptly if flights are cancelled. “If that doesn’t happen, we will hold the airline accountable on behalf of the American traveler and act to get the money back to the passenger,” he said. You don’t have to wait months.”
For airlines, 2022 has been an often rocky year for post-COVID-19 profitability, combined with strong travel demand and higher airfares. Most of the major airlines reported higher revenues despite reduced capacity, indicating that passengers are willing to pay inflated fares.
Even Southwest Airlines, whose outdated flight-scheduling software crumbled nearly 17,000 flights in late December and led to the collapse of the holiday season, reported $539 million in profits for the year. .
Many industry watchers are skeptical that these latest laws will pass. On LinkedIn, The Points Guy’s top editor called the bill a “long shot,” and the founder of the Airline Observer newsletter commented: ”
The bill’s future depends on gaining elusive bipartisan support. “We need to rethink the relationship between airlines and consumers,” Senator Blumenthal said. No more confusion as an everyday fact of flight.”