Advocates Call on Congress to Take Action on Air Travel Crisis

Advocate Andy

Frequent cancellations, high fees, flight delays prompt call to action

In response to a summer travel surge and a subsequent air travel crisis resulting in stranded passengers due to flight cancellations and long delays as airlines face a pilot shortage, consumer advocates are calling on Congress to give new powers to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Consumer Federation of America (CFA) issued a call for Congress to take specific actions to protect airline consumers as the summer travel season wears on and customers face daunting challenges with the industry.

The group noted in a statement:

"Despite receiving over $50 billion of relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines have had record delays, cancellations, and poor customer service, all while fare prices continue to increase. The sole regulator of airlines, the Department of Transportation (DOT), has initiated only a single enforcement action since the pandemic began."

CFA added that Congress has an opportunity to take action that will have direct benefits to the public and solve an urgent problem.

“Congress has an opportunity and an obligation to respond to the air travel crisis by enacting meaningful reforms to strengthen consumer protections,” said Erin Witte, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection. “CFA is committed to ensuring that urgently needed reforms are included and that consumer voices are prioritized throughout the FAA reauthorization process.”

Specifically, CFA is calling on Congress to provide expanded authority, including:

· Minimizing flights cancellations and delays by requiring industry-wide reciprocity for passengers, requiring carriers to maintain a percentage of on-time flights per month, and requiring public airports to post notices about compensation rights.

· Reforming airline fees, seating and rewards by prohibiting unreasonable and disproportionate fees, prioritizing family seating requirements, establishing basic standards for air travel (including maintaining a customer service phone number with minimal wait time), requiring up front and transparent fare pricing, ending the excise tax exemption for ancillary service fees, establishing a minimum passenger seat size, and requiring reasonable notice before devaluing frequent flyer miles.

· Enabling stronger enforcement of passenger protections by permitting state attorneys general to enforce DOT consumer protection laws, establishing a private right of action for passengers, and directing the Government Accountability Office to examine the DOT’s failure to complete prior mandates from Congress in past FAA reauthorization bills.

· Prioritizing consumer voices by renewing the charter for the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, requiring airport authority government boards to have at least two consumer representatives, and establishing the creation of new airports.

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

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