Senators push for Airline Passenger Bill of Rights

Passengers walk past a flight status board at Terminal C at Orlando International Airport showing many delays on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, after the FAA suspended all flights to the US earlier in the day.

Joe Burbank | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Two Democratic senators on Tuesday re-introduced legislation to strengthen airline passenger protections after a year of disruption to travel ended in chaos that left thousands stranded during the December holidays.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts are trying get support on two accounts which aim to expedite refunds to passengers during flight disruptions and reduce airline fees, which range from seat assignment to checked baggage, and have generated billions for the aviation industry.

The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, co-sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Dr. I, Bob Casey, D-Pa., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also calls for a minimum compensation of $1,350 USA for travelers who canceled oversold flights. Airlines can currently limit compensation for these delays to $1,550, according to the Department of Transportation.

Their attempt to get the law passed comes a month after southwestern airlines canceled about 16,700 flights between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31 after its internal crew rebooking systems were unable to handle multiple flight changes due to bad weather, prompting executives to cut schedules. Last week, Southwest said it had processed nearly all refund requests but declined to provide further details.

Senator Maria Cantwell, D-W, plans to hold a hearing on the latest airline outages in the coming weeks.

The bills also follow the Biden administration’s push for stricter rules for airline passengers, including on traveler refunds.

Airlines for America, the largest US carriers, said, “comply with—and often exceed—all DOT consumer protection regulations.”

“The proposed policies in this bill — establishing state-controlled pricing, establishing private right to act and dictating contracts in the private sector — will drastically reduce competition, leading to subsequent higher airfare prices and a potential reduction in services for small and rural communities. “, the industry group said in a statement.

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