Interstate install

(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong is leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take stronger measures to protect consumers from airline abuses, and to work with state attorneys general to meaningfully address the unacceptable level of airline consumer complaints.

A recent draft rule from DOT proposes several important new protections for airline consumers, yet falls short of the robust protections and enforcement measures required to effectively reduce preventable flight cancellations and delays, compensate consumers for disruptions, and hold airlines accountable for unacceptable service.

The proposed rule would declare it an unfair business practice under DOT’s regulatory authority for airlines to fail to provide appropriate refunds to consumers whose flights are significantly changed or cancelled by carriers. The rule would further require airlines to provide non-expiring travel vouchers or credits to consumers with non-refundable tickets who are unable to travel due to serious communicable disease.

While a significant step in the right direction, Attorney General Tong’s comment letter expresses concerns that the proposed rule does not go far enough to protect consumers. Despite bipartisan urging from attorneys general nationwide, including a letter to Congress from Attorney General Tong and others in September, federal law does not grant attorneys general authority to enforce state and federal consumer protections relating to airline passengers. Federal law currently places that responsibility within DOT, but the agency has failed to keep up with escalating issues and has failed to partner with state attorneys general, who have unique experience and expertise in addressing consumer issues.

Since the pandemic, Attorney General Tong has received over 260 complaints directly against airlines, including many from families who were denied refunds when forced to cancel their travel due to illness or health concerns.

“We are in the midst of the busiest flying times of the year, which means added delays, disruptions, and headaches. Travelers deserve strong protections—and enforcement– against these unacceptable airline practices. Federal regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation are ill-equipped to handle the volume of complaints, and rules have not kept up with the kinds of abusive practices passengers are experiencing. DOT’s efforts are a first step in the right direction, but consumers need and deserve stronger action and accountability,” said Attorney General Tong.

Attorney General Tong’s suggested improvements include:

•             DOT should require airlines to advertise and sell only flights that they have adequate personnel to support.

•             DOT should make clear that it will impose significant fines for cancellations and extended delays that are not weather-related or otherwise unavoidable.

•             DOT should require airlines to provide partial refunds to passengers for any cancellation that results in a rescheduled flight which the passenger accepts but that is later, longer, or otherwise less valuable than the originally purchased flight.

•             DOT should prohibit airlines from canceling flights while upselling consumers more expensive alternative flights to the same destinations. For example, an airline could cancel a consumer’s $200 flight from City A to City B, then explain to the consumer that he or she could either accept a full refund, as required by FAA rules, or purchase an alternative ticket for $300.  Such a circumstance forces consumers to either cancel their travel plans or pay an upcharge–while the airline would receive a windfall profit from any such sale as the result of its cancellation. DOT should prohibit airlines from disadvantaging consumers and benefiting from its flight cancellations in such a way.

•             DOT should require that credits and vouchers for future travel that are provided by airlines in the event of cancellation can be used easily without inappropriate limitations.

•             DOT should require airlines to provide additional compensation to consumers who, as the result of delays or cancellations, are forced to assume additional costs because they must pay for meals, hotel stays, flights on other airlines, rental car reservations, or gas to eventually make it to their destinations.

This press release was made possible by:

Stephen Krauchick

By Stephen Krauchick

DoingItLocal is run by Steve Krauchick. Steve has always had interest with breaking news even as an early teen, opting to listen to the Watergate hearings instead of top 40 on the radio. His interest in news spread to become the communities breaking news leader in Connecticut’s Fairfield County. He strongly believes that the public has right to know what is happening in their backyard and that government needs to be transparent. Steve also likes promoting local businesses.

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