Senators Push for ‘Passenger Bill of Rights’ After Southwest Debacle

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Senators Push for ‘Passenger Bill of Rights’ After Southwest Debacle

Two senators want to impose tougher penalties on U.S. airlines when they strand or delay passengers.

The “passenger bill of rights” would allow customers to file class-action lawsuits against airlines, limit airline fees and force them to pay a minimum compensation of $1,350 for bumping travelers off oversold flights.

The proposal is not completely new. But the lawmakers hope to gain support after Southwest’s massive meltdown over the holidays late last year.

The airline canceled 16,7000 flights over a period of less than two week. The disaster will cost Southwest about $1.1 billion, but the disruptions are still a small part of the 210,000 U.S. flights that airlines canceled in 2022. That’s an increase of 52% in cancellations from 2021.

Besides the $1,350 minimum compensation for passengers bumped off oversold flights, the proposal 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.

Airlines for America, a trade group for the largest U.S. airlines, opposes the proposal while noting that the industry is a highly competitive one that benefits consumers.

“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, as reported by Fox Business. “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.”

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