Wyden: Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights

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Oregon US Senator Ron Wyden,

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., joined Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., this week to introduce comprehensive legislation that would expand protections for American air travelers.

The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights requires airlines to pay at least $1,350 to passengers denied boarding due to an oversold flight, prevents airlines from shrinking their seats until a minimum standard size is set by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and requires that airlines immediately refund bag fees for damaged or lost bags.

“Excessive and unexpected fees, delays and cancellations, overbooked planes—almost everyone who has flown has experienced the need for an ‘Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights,” Wyden said. “For too long, the FAA has knuckled under to the airline industry. It’s time to stand up for the rights of all air passengers and against excessive airline fees by ensuring ironclad consumer protections for air travel.”

The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights would protect air travelers by:

Providing Compensation for Involuntary Denied Boarding

  • Establishes that $1,350 is the minimum level of compensation an air carrier or foreign air carrier must pay to a passenger who is involuntarily denied boarding as the result of an oversold flight.
  • Encourages airlines to provide compensation to passengers who relinquish their seat in the form of a cash payment.
  • Prohibits airlines from imposing a cap on the amount of compensation provided to a passenger for relinquishing their seat.

Stopping Airlines from Endangering Safety by Shrinking Seats

  • Prohibits airlines from shrinking seat size further until DOT implements a minimum seat size requirement.

 Bolstering the Transparency of Passengers’ Rights

  • Requires airline employees to undergo biannual training on passengers’ rights.
  • Ensures that passengers receive a clear explanation of their rights at ticket purchase and throughout travel.

Requiring Airlines to Refund Tickets and Compensate Passengers for Delays and Cancellations Caused by the Airlines

  • Requires airlines provide ticket refunds and alternative transportation for flights delayed between one and four hours.
  • Requires airlines to provide ticket refunds, alternate transportation, compensation, and cover the cost of meals and lodging (as applicable) for flights delayed more than four hours.
  • Directs the DOT to facilitate interline agreements between airlines to ensure availability of alternative flights.
  • Cracks down on airlines using weather as an excuse for delays and cancellations that are actually the airlines’ fault.

 Protecting Basic Humanity on Planes

  • Requires that the FAA study food and water safety on aircraft and mandate drinking water and restrooms be available free.
  • Requires working restrooms on all aircraft and that restrooms must accommodate passengers with disabilities.

 Grounding Sky-High Nickel-and-Dime Fees

  • Prohibits airlines from charging exorbitant, unnecessary fees that bear no relation to the service provided.
  • Requires airlines reveal the true costs of flying and offer lowest fares on multi-segment flights.
  • Requires airlines be transparent about changes and costs associated with frequent flyer programs.
  • Requires airlines refund bag fees immediately for damaged or lost bags.

 Restoring Consumers’ Rights to Pursue Claims against Airlines

  • Reinstates the right of passengers to sue airlines in federal and state court for unfair and deceptive practices.
  • Reinstates the right of passengers with disabilities to sue airlines in federal court for denying basic access.
  • Improves process for passengers to submit airline complaints and forces airlines to address concerns quickly.

 Bolstering DOT’s Enforcement against the Airline Industry

  • Requires the DOT to explain reasons for failing to impose penalties on airlines for violations of passenger rights.
  • Institutes a study by DOT and consumer groups on the feasibility of system in which fines on airlines go directly to passengers.
  • Eliminates the cap on fines that DOT charges airlines for violating consumer protection laws and prevents airlines from negotiating low, slap-on-the wrist fines for egregious conduct.

 Addressing Lack of Meaningful Competition in the Airline Industry

  • Requires a Government Accountability Office investigation into the fairness of airfares and fees as compared to the costs of services provided on flights since the consolidation of air carriers.