A new piece of legislation might finally create consequences for an airline selling one seat to three people.
If you traveled for the holidays in December, then there’s a pretty good chance you had a horrible experience in the process. The series of air travel crises that took place over the course of one winter month have already become the stuff of legend — with Southwest Airlines, in particular, taking a major reputational hit after canceling thousands…and thousands…and thousands of flights in the days before Christmas.
Not to mention the lost luggage. And the overbooked flights. And the annoying fact that you now have to pay for what used to be free amenities, like carry-on bag options and a flimsy bag of pretzels during your flight.
It’s safe to say that the airline industry in America is in the throes of an existential crisis. It’s gotten so bad that it’s permeating politics (what isn’t these days?), garnering the attention of Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal.
The politicians introduced an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights this week, via a statement that highlighted just how nightmarish air travel has become.
“Our nation’s largest airlines can’t even guarantee consumers that their flights won’t be delayed or canceled, that their luggage won’t be lost, or that they won’t get stranded at the gate because of overbooking,” Sen. Markey noted in the statement that announced the bill. “The status quo won’t fly any longer. We must empower regulators and uphold passengers’ rights so they are treated with dignity before, during, and after their flight.”
Here are the details within the proposed legislation, including a very exciting provision that would give travelers a minimum of $1,350 (in cash, not in highly specific and extremely annoying flight credits) in certain instances.
How the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights could help travelers
The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights includes a number of stipulations aimed at protecting travelers in all the worst-case scenarios — many of which have recently become too common.
For example, the bill would require airlines to refund tickets and even provide additional compensation for any delays or flight cancellations caused by the airline. And yes — this could include many of those annoying cancellations that airlines blame on vague untraceable “weather” issues.
The bill also addresses the ethically dubious practice of overbooking flights. If passed, the legislation would require airlines to compensate any passengers impacted by an overbooked flight, starting with a minimum payment of $1,350.
As for a lost or damaged bag, you guessed it: the airline would pay for that, and then some.
It’s hard to overstate what a big deal it would be for people around the country if this bill were to pass. To put it into perspective: last December, over 3,000 flights were canceled in one day alone. Southwest Airlines singlehandedly canceled over 13,000 flights in a matter of days.
As for how many bags were lost during that time period, and are still unclaimed today — let’s just say it’s an ongoing nightmare.
An essential provision within the proposed Bill of Rights: the FAIR Fees Act
The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights doesn’t just stop at requiring airlines to pay for their mistakes. It actually goes one major step further with the inclusion of something called the FAIR Fees Act.
This act, which was co-sponsored by a larger group of Democratic senators, would prevent airlines from charging customers unreasonable rates for basic aspects of travel.
Sen. Markey said, “Air travelers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for basics like a carry-on bag, a seat next to their children, or even for a sip of water, especially as airlines continue to fail passengers at every turn,”
Sen. Blumenthal added, “This legislation will ensure fliers have the essential consumer protections they deserve. The Southwest Airlines debacle is just the latest example of why we urgently need stronger passenger protections, as air travel has become more stressful, unpredictable, and uncomfortable for fliers.”
There are a whole host of protections the bill wants to introduce for travelers moving forward. You can read all the details in their joint statement. If you’re interested in the ongoing crisis that is the air travel industry, you can keep an eye on the upcoming congressional hearings on the topic, too.