Labor Day weekend is going to be busy at U.S. airports, as 12.7 million people are expected to fly from Thursday to Monday. If the disruptions are anything like those documented in August, when 23% of flights were delayed and 3% were canceled, passengers could experience some big headaches.
Those delays and cancellations often lead to consumer complaints. A bipartisan coalition of 38 states attorneys general is asking Congress to pass legislation allowing the group to enforce state and federal consumer protection laws governing the airline industry. The group also wants Congress to move the authority for investigating consumer complaints from the Department of Transportation to the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission.
“Over the past couple of years, our offices have received thousands of complaints from outraged airline passengers about airline customer service—including about systematic failures to provide required credits to those who lost travel opportunities during the pandemic,” the state attorneys general wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.
The AGs stated the Department of Transportation is in charge of addressing violations of airline consumer protection, and their offices have relayed complaints to the department. The letter stated the DOT, because it is either “unable or unwilling”, has failed to respond adequately. The AGs contend if Congress gave them the power, they could do a better job going after airlines when they shortchange customers.
The DOT recently released its Air Travel Consumer Report which revealed consumer complaints about airlines are up 270% compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. That includes increases in everything from mishandling baggage to bumping people off flights because of oversales.
The Department of Transportation is proposing a rule that would require airlines and ticket agents to refund travelers if airlines cancel or significantly change their flights.
“When Americans buy an airline ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines.”
A significant change would be defined as: changes to departure and/or arrival time of three hours or more on domestic flights, change to airport, change to number of stops on the itinerary, and changes to the aircraft type if it significantly downgrades the amenities.