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STATEMENT: Air travel chaos reinforces need for airlines to be more accountable to passengers

U.S. PIRG, coalition of consumer advocates, ask Congress to address cancellations, other problems
For immediate release

CLEVELAND -- Another busy travel weekend, another nightmare for air travelers dealing with cancellations and delays, including, ironically, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The 4th of July mess was unfortunately predictable: U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and  six other consumer and passenger rights groups have sent a letter to Congress asking the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to make it clear to airlines they need to reform -- urgently.

The letter, sent Friday as part of our airline coalition’s request for priorities for 2023 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Legislation, contains many recommendations. Some highlights:

  • Minimizing cancellations and delays by instituting an industry-wide reciprocity agreement, holding airlines accountable for chronically delayed and cancelled flights, and demanding clearer notices to passengers about their compensation rights under the law.

  • Reforming fees, seating and rewards by adopting the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act in the 2023 reauthorization. This would prohibit airlines from charging baggage, seating and other fees that are unreasonable. The coalition also expects parents and caregivers to be seated with their minor children at no charge, and for airlines to offer transparent pricing that doesn’t change throughout the booking process.

  • Enabling stronger enforcement of passenger protections by empowering state attorneys general with the ability to enforce federal consumer protection laws.

In response, Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog with U.S. PIRG, said:

“The airlines received $50 billion in taxpayer money during the pandemic to avoid layoffs and the staffing shortages that would follow. Yet here we are, dealing with another mess of a holiday weekend caused in part by the airlines’ staffing blunders, including offering lucrative buyouts and retirement packages

“There are predictions the uncertainty of airline travel could last at least through Labor Day. We’ve all been through enough the last two-plus years. We don’t need more stress as we try to resume seeing family, having fun and conducting necessary business. We need those in authority, including Congress and the Department of Transportation, to fix the nightmare that airline travel has become for too many Americans.”

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Others joining in the recommendations are: American Economic Liberties Project, Business Travel Coalition, Consumer Federation of America, FlyerRights.org, National Consumers League and Travelers United.

PIRG has put together a guide to your rights to a refund under federal law and tips to understand airlines’ policies on credits and vouchers, which flyers don’t have to accept when the airline cancels the flight.

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