Senators raise alarm on recent spike in flight disruptions, say reliability of air travel “should not be up in the air”

Washington (June 29, 2022) ­– Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, sent letters to the ten major domestic airlines urging them to prioritize their passengers and address flight schedule issues ahead of the July 4th holiday weekend. During the first four months of 2022, the airlines cancelled 3.5 percent of flights and delayed another 20 percent of flights, far above similar figures before the COVID-19 pandemic. While the airlines have blamed the flight disruptions on poor weather and air traffic control issues, the Senators identify data indicating that roughly 40 percent of delays in the first four months of 2022 were due to circumstances within the airlines’ control, the highest figure in over a decade.

“We strongly urge you to prioritize the interests of your passengers and address flight schedule issues now and throughout the summer,” the Senators wrote. “Flight cancellations and significant delays have real-world consequences for the travelers who may miss vacations, sacrifice time with loved ones, or incur significant financial costs.” 

“If an airline cancels a flight for any reason, the airline must promptly provide passengers refunds, as required by the law,” the Senators continued. “As the July 4th holiday approaches, the reliability of the air travel system should not be up in the air.”

Over the past two years, Senators Markey and Blumenthal have repeatedly called on the airlines to prioritize consumers. In March 2020, the Senators led their colleagues in a letter demanding airlines offer cash refunds instead of temporary flight credits for travelers whose flights were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and later introduced legislation that would require the return of travelers’ money. The Senators sent a follow-up letter to the airlines in May 2021 and, in May 2022, Senators Markey, Blumenthal, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) sent a letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling on DOT to strengthen consumer protections for travelers who are eligible for airline ticket refunds. Most recently, on June 2, Senators Markey and Blumenthal sent letters to the industry trade group, Airlines for America, and DOT after the flight cancellations over Memorial Day weekend.

Letters were sent to the following companies: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.

A copy of the letters to the ten major airline companies can be found HERE

The letters request that each major airline provide the following information by July 20th: 

  1. The number of flight delays, cancelations, and reasons for the disruptions on Memorial Day weekend, Juneteenth weekend, and July 4th weekend.
  2. Each airline’s definition of a “significant delay” under which the airline is required to provide a refund to passengers when it cancels a flight.
  3. The number of customers on cancelled flights over those holiday weekends who sought and received refunds, were rebooked on a different flight, or neither sought a refund nor were rebooked on a different flight.
  4. The number of flights the airlines preemptively cancelled this summer and the process by which each airline determined which flights to cancel.