Following their push, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) are highlighting new actions the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be taking to hold airlines accountable in the midst of record-breaking flight cancellations and chaos at airports. Last month, the senators urged DOT to investigate whether airlines are engaging in unfair or deceptive business practices. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg responded to their request in a letter stating that DOT is actively investigating the refund practices of more than ten airlines flying to, from, or within the United States. Additionally, Secretary Buttigieg said that DOT will soon begin a rulemaking to ensure that customers receive full and prompt refunds for significantly delayed or canceled flights.
“This decisive and timely response from the Department of Transportation is a huge win for travelers in the United States. Across the country, Americans are feeling the impact of severe airline delays, canceled flights, and lost luggage. As travel has ramped up during the summer months, our airports have become especially chaotic and ineffective, and yet, airlines are still reporting massive revenues,” said Senator Gillibrand. “That’s why I worked together with Senators Blumenthal and Padilla to call on the Department of Transportation to investigate major airlines that may be engaging in unfair and deceptive business practices. I am proud to announce that DOT is now taking critical steps to address the refund practices of several airlines, and I look forward to continuing our work with DOT to ensure the investigations and rulemaking are robust and complete.”
“This action is a solid step—hopefully followed promptly by more—to probe airlines’ refund practices and work to protect consumers as we have urged,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Flight delays, unexpected cancellations, and lost luggage have frustrated travelers while airlines have deflected blame. Consumers deserve fairness in the skies, and I will continue pushing for fast, firm federal action to remedy airline travel chaos.”
“I’m glad to see the Department of Transportation heeding our calls to hold airlines accountable and working to ensure that travelers are promptly refunded when they face significant delays or cancelations,” said Senator Padilla. “Taxpayer money kept airlines afloat during the pandemic, and as travel has picked up this summer, overall airline service has been abysmal. We must continue working to protect travelers and hold airlines to a higher standard.”
During the pandemic, Congress authorized $54 billion in taxpayer-funded relief to help retain pilots and critical staff to keep airlines afloat and ready for the return to travel. Now, they are failing to fulfill flights promised to customers, and in some cases, allegedly scheduling flights that they know cannot be staffed. DOT’s response to the senators’ call will help bring accountability back to consumers in transit.