Lawmakers look to increase penalties for airline disruptions
A holiday travel disruption caused more than two million passengers to have their plans upended and took airlines a week to recover
Lawmakers want to impose stricter penalties on U.S. airlines that delay or strand passengers.
This time, Senators think it can finally become law.
The latest move comes following outrage over debacles like the one at Southwest Airlines in December.
The "passenger bill of rights" is being presented by Democrats Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts.
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Among other things, it will allow customers to file class-action lawsuits against airlines and legislation to limit airline fees.
A trade group for the largest U.S. airlines isn't happy about it, issuing a blistering attack on the legislation.
A spokeswoman for trade group Airlines for America said the industry is a highly competitive one that benefits consumers.
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"This bill undermines and eliminates decades of successful policies that have transformed air travel, allowing the vast majority of Americans to take flight," said the spokeswoman, Marli Collier. "The proposed policies in this bill — instituting government-controlled pricing, establishing a private right of action and dictating private sector contracts — would drastically decrease competition, leading to a subsequent increase in airfare prices and potential cut in services to small and rural communities."
While proposals like this have failed in the past the lawmakers argue that they can succeed this time by attaching their ideas to must-pass legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
Southwest canceled 16,700 flights in late December, likely affecting travel plans for about 2 million people, when it took more than a week to recover from a winter storm.
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A Southwest spokesperson provided FOX Business with the following statement.
"We empower Southwest Employees to lean in and take care of our Customers guided by a simple philosophy of doing the right thing, which has served us well throughout our long and proud 51-year history of offering world-class Customer Service".
Southwest has said the holiday disruption would cost about $1.1 billion.
"The airlines need to be given some incentives to do the right thing, and consumers need protection," Blumenthal told reporters.
Blumenthal's proposal would set $1,350 as the minimum compensation for passengers bumped off oversold flights. It would require airlines to provide alternate transportation and reimbursement of out-of-pocket costs to customers whose flights are delayed as briefly as one hour.
The bill would also allow consumers to file class-action lawsuits and eliminate caps on fines the government can levy for airlines that violate consumer-protection laws.
Markey proposes separately to limit fees to what it costs the airline to provide the service.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.