[WASHINGTON, DC] – Ahead of consideration of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation in the Senate Commerce Committee this week, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights, comprehensive legislation to expand protections for American air travelers.
“Whether it is overbooked planes, delayed flights or lost luggage, laws in place to protect consumers have been frequently and flagrantly ignored by airlines more concerned with profits than passengers. Airline travelers shouldn’t be forced to check their basic rights at the gate. The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights will restore sanity to the skies by expanding the rights afforded to passengers and ensuring tougher oversight of the airline industry,” Blumenthal said.
“Sky-high fees, shrinking seats, IT meltdowns, and a growing frustration with the modern flying experience have made a passengers’ bill of rights as much a requirement for flying as a boarding pass. We must ensure that airline customers are protected by basic consumer rights every time they fly. The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights gives passengers meaningful control over the flying experience, ensuring the skies remain friendly and fair for all consumers,” Markey said.
Blumenthal and Markey’s comprehensive Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights would protect air travelers by:
Ending Involuntary Denied Boarding
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights prohibits airlines from forcing passengers to relinquish seats involuntarily.
Grounding Sky-High Nickel-and-Dime Fees
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights prohibits airlines from charging exorbitant, unnecessary fees that bear no relation to the service provided;
· Requires airlines reveal the true costs of flying and offer lowest fares on multi-segment flights;
· Requires airlines be transparent about changes and costs associated with frequent flyer programs; and
· Requires airlines refund bag fees immediately for damaged or lost bags.
Requiring Airlines to Refund Tickets and Compensate Passengers for Delays and Cancellations Caused by the Airlines
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights requires airlines provide ticket refunds and alternative transportation for flights delayed between one and four hours;
· Requires airlines provide ticket refunds, alternate transportation, and compensation for flights delayed for more than four hours;
· Directs the Department of Transportation to facilitate interline agreements between airlines to ensure availability of alternative flights; and
· Cracks down on airlines using weather as an excuse for delays and cancellations that are actually the airlines’ fault.
Restoring Consumers’ Rights to Pursue Claims against Airlines
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights reinstates the right of passengers to sue airlines in federal and state court for unfair and deceptive practices;
· Reinstates the right of passengers with disabilities to sue airlines in federal court for denying basic access;
· Ensures that passengers receive a clear explanation of their rights at ticket purchase and throughout travel;
· Improves process for passengers to submit airline complaints and forces airlines to address concerns quickly; and
· Requires airline employees to undergo biannual training on passengers’ rights.
Addressing Lack of Meaningful Competition in the Airline Industry
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights requires a Government Accountability Office investigation into anti-competitive practices in domestic and international markets.
Bolstering the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Enforcement against the Airline Industry
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights eliminates the cap on fines that DOT charges airlines for violating consumer protection laws and prevents airlines from negotiating low, slap-on-the wrist fines for egregious conduct;
· Requires DOT to explain reasons for failing to impose penalties on airlines for violations of passenger rights; and
· Institutes a study by DOT and consumer groups on the feasibility of system in which fines on airlines go directly to passengers.
Protecting Basic Humanity on Planes
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights requires that the Federal Aviation Administration study food and water safety on aircraft and mandates drinking water and restrooms be available free; and
· Requires working restrooms on all aircraft and that restrooms must accommodate passengers with disabilities.
Stopping Airlines from Endangering Safety by Shrinking Seats
· The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights requires the Federal Aviation Administration set a minimum seat size and investigate if shrinking seats endanger evacuation procedures.