EXCLUSIVE: A bipartisan coalition of 37 state attorneys general is asking Congress to take action allowing enhanced consumer protections for airline customers, saying the industry is not being held accountable for growing complaints from travelers.
In a letter sent Wednesday and viewed exclusively by FOX Business, the National Association of Attorneys General told congressional leadership that "the airline industry has failed their customers" and asked for federal lawmakers to allow states greater authority to step in and address violations of consumers' rights.
The letter, signed by both Democratic and Republican attorneys general led by Arizona's GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich, also called on Congress to strip the authority for federal investigations of travelers' complaints from the U.S. Department of Transporation, saying the DOT has "failed to respond and to provide appropriate recourse" from thousands of outraged airline passengers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Customer service in the airline industry began a sharp descent a couple of years ago, and it has yet to pull up," Brnovich said in a statement. "People spend a lot of their hard-earned money flying to visit family or going on vacations, but the airlines are more concerned about profit than serving their customers."
"Americans are justifiably frustrated that federal government agencies charged with overseeing airline consumer protection are unable or unwilling to hold the airline industry accountable and to swiftly investigate complaints submitted to the US DOT," the letter states. "The lack of action has spanned multiple administrations – both Republican and Democratic Presidents have failed to spur the US DOT to act in a manner that responds effectively to consumer complaints."
The DOT, led by Secretary Pete Buttigieg, recently proposed rules around refunds for passengers whose flights are canceled or rescheduled. The secretary also sent a letter to airline CEOs this month calling the ongoing surge in flight cancellations and delays nationwide "unacceptable."
Buttigieg said his department is also considering additional rules "that would further expand the rights of airlines passengers who experience disruptions."
The attorneys general acknowledged in their letter that the DOT is currently working to implement changes aimed at providing airline customers with greater protections, but said that even if the agency bolsters protections for travelers, "we remain deeply concerned and frustrated that the agency is unable or unwilling to vindicate the rights of consumers and to hold airline companies accountable for irresponsible actions."
FOX Business' Andrew Miller contributed to this report.