DOT Secretary Buttigieg to Testify Tuesday at Commerce Committee hearing
Washington (May 2, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today called on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to strengthen consumer protections for travelers who are eligible for airline ticket refunds. DOT previously stated that it would issue new consumer protections regarding airline refunds, in the wake of major disruptions for air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a report to the White House Competition Council, DOT reported “[m]any airlines were also initially reluctant to provide the required refunds,” causing consumers to send the DOT “a flood of complaints” regarding airlines’ failures to compensate their customers for flight cancellations. In 2020, DOT received 29,687 refund complaints against U.S. airlines, a 4,634 percent increase from 2019.
“As part of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s ongoing oversight of the U.S. airline industry, we are writing to request that the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) take further action to make the process for obtaining refunds more transparent and efficient for U.S. airline passengers, in response to the increase in passenger refund complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg ahead of Tuesday’s hearing in the Commerce Committee on the President’s budget priorities.
A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE.
In their letter, the Senators urge the Transportation Department to take specific actions to protect air travel consumers, including clarifying and codifying policies requiring carriers and ticket agents to provide prompt refunds after a flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, as well as clarifying the rights for consumers who are unable to travel and cancel their own tickets due to government restrictions or the declaration of a public health emergency. The Senators also called on DOT to require airlines to conspicuously disclose and publicize to passengers that consumers have to submit a written request to trigger the refund requirement, to set up user-friendly and easy-to-find refund portals, and to report to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics the value of the refunds and vouchers provided to consumers each month.