Senators push for Air Passenger Invoice of Rights

Passengers walk past a flight status board in Orlando International Airport’s Terminal C on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, which is showing many delays after the FAA grounded all U.S. flights earlier in the day.

Joe Burbank | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Two Senate Democrats on Tuesday reintroduced legislation to bolster airline passenger protections after a year of travel disruptions topped by chaos that left thousands stranded over the December holidays.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts are trying to push through two bills aimed at expediting passenger reimbursement for flight disruptions and reducing airline fees ranging from seat assignments to checked bags that have netted billions for the airline industry .

The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, also co-sponsored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., calls for minimum compensation of $1,350 for travelers deducted from oversold flights. Currently, airlines can limit compensation for these delays to $1,550, according to the Department of Transportation.

Her attempt to approve the legislation comes a month later Southwest Airlines canceled about 16,700 flights from December 21 to December 31 after its internal crew rebooking systems could not handle numerous flight changes due to bad weather, prompting executives to cut the flight schedule. Southwest said last week it had processed nearly all refund requests but declined to give more details.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., plans to hold a hearing on recent airline disruptions in the coming weeks.

The bills also follow a push by the Biden administration for stricter rules for air passengers, including for traveler refunds.

Airlines for America, said its members, the largest US airlines, “meets – and often exceeds – all DOT consumer protection regulations.”

“The proposed policies in this bill — introducing state-controlled pricing, introducing a private right of action, and dictating contracts with the private sector — would drastically reduce competition, leading to a subsequent increase in air fares and a potential cut in services for small businesses and rural communities would lead. ‘ the industry association said in a statement.

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