Alaska attorney general joins 36 others asking feds to protect airlines customers after flight cancellations

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By JOE MUELLER | THE CENTER SQUARE

A bipartisan coalition of 37 attorneys general, including Alaska AG Treg Taylor, are requesting the U.S. Department of Transportation improve protections for airline customers.

The coalition, led by Democratic Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, sent a letter on Monday urging Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to adopt proposed rules for airline ticket refunds and other protections. It stated appreciation for the department’s efforts to address the problems of flight cancellations and significant delays, but the eight-page letter emphasized proposed regulations must be strengthened.

“We are aware of the frustrations experienced by countless consumers whose flights have been cancelled or delayed and the inadequate remedies that have been offered to them,” the letter stated. “In fact, our offices have repeatedly brought to the USDOT’s attention complaints from airline passengers impacted by the airlines’ cancellation or significant delay of their flights.”

The letter highlighted Weiser’s September 2020 complaint to former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao concerning Denver-based Frontier Airlines’ alleged unfair or deceptive practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Weiser claimed the airline’s flight-change policies and customer service practices violated federal law.

“In our experience, the USDOT has yet to develop the ability to respond quickly enough to or coordinate effectively with our offices,” the letter stated. “That is why a bipartisan coalition of 37 attorneys general have twice urged Congress to take meaningful action and pass legislation that would authorize state attorneys general to enforce state and federal consumer protection laws governing the airline industry.”

The attorneys general warned about possible abuse of a proposed rule requiring refunds when there’s a significant change in flight itinerary.

“Because some currently published airline refund policies are more protective of consumers – providing refunds after a 120-minute delay, for example – USDOT should take steps to ensure that setting a floor does not cause some airlines to loosen their standards to the detriment of consumers,” the letter stated.

Other suggestions include:

  • – Requirements for airlines to advertise and sell flights only if they have adequate staff to fly and support the flight;
  • audits to ensure compliance with regulations and impose fines when airlines fail to meet regulations;
  • – Fines for cancellations and extended delays not related to weather;
  • – Partial refunds when a rescheduled flight, accepted by the passenger, is later, longer or otherwise less valuable than the original purchased flight;
  • – Prohibit flight cancellation while upselling consumers for more expensive alternative flights to the same destinations;
  • – Ensure credits or vouchers for cancelled flights can be used easily without inappropriate limitations;
  • – Additional compensation to consumers paying additional costs for meals, hotel stays, flights on other airlines, rental cars and gasoline due to flight delays or cancellations.

“Coloradans tell our office often about airlines over-complicating refunds, not adhering to their cancellation policies, and generally making travel challenging and costly,” Weiser said in a statement.

Other states and territories signing onto the letter are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I bet the little Peter will be hard at work on this when he gets back from his well deserved European vacation.

  2. They ought to sue Trudeau for cancelling our treaty relationship right to travel the king’s highway unilaterally while imposing command experimental injections and medical practice over trading partner populations while not even being an md and ruining our economy for years to come.

  3. More government interference. What will this do? Drive up prices and reduce the number of available flights. Airlines, like most other businesses, are suffering from staffing shortages and we have a looming pilot shortage. The goal is reducing air travel and peoples’ ability to freely move about the country and world. Stay put and do as you’re told.

  4. One of the biggest mistakes of Bush 43 was to bail out the airline industry without terms in the consumer’s favor.

  5. Ridiculous for the government to ask private companies to pay for bad weather, epidemics, pandemics, you name it. If my guarenteed package is not delivered becuse MOA did not plow, does MOA or USPS pay me? If it takes me longer to drive to Kenai because of a snow storm, does Alaska pay me? sheesh

  6. Please address airlines overbooking. If an airline sells more seats then they have available on the plane, then they should be charged with fraud. And if they drag customers off of a plane where they sold the seat out from under them, then they should be charged with assault as well. They should also face some sort of penalty for interfering with basic political free speech (i.e. we don’t like the person on your hat, so you can’t wear it). And STOP bailing them out. Let poorly run airlines run out of business and be replaced by better options. And while I don’t think it should be addressed by lawmakers, airlines listen up: you can load the majority of a plane in 15 minutes or less. It happens in Asia all the time. Stop with your elitist parades and making sure everybody sees the “better than the rest of you” groups. Simply open one line to the side for your “most valued/loyal” customers and mark it with a sign. They don’t have to wait and everybody else can stream onto the plane. The only division that makes sense is loading the back of the plane first.

    • Sympathies AKJ, but loading the back first tends to tip the aircraft down on its tail due to imbalance.
      While we’re bellyaching about airlines – they need to have a rule that anyone with a girth wider than the seat should have to buy two seats… not get to crush me against the wall or force me to sit in the aisle.

  7. I was 4 hours late getting to Honolulu last night, got in too late to get a rental car. Had to spend the night in an airport hotel for $229 while my room on the North Shore was already paid for.

    Alaska Airlines’ fault? No. Inbound plane was late due to severe Seattle weather. It’s winter, it happens.

  8. Airlines were given BILLIONS to stay in business. They cut staff, gave lucrative severance, then didn’t have enough qualified staff to operate.

  9. Ratifying the undelegated authority that probably isn’t there namely ASKING feds to REGULATE inter-state commerce is the opposite of securing and defending our rights to travel by air conveyance; when the feds DO and MUST REGULATE inter-national commerce between nations. AN example would be federally protecting the American residents from those who have publicly stated they have their sights on destroying American liberties like the UN, and WEF practitioners. What are the feds doing to protect us from these harmful actual enemies? Nothing? Yes, absolutely nothing but heavily aiding and financing them.

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