Three Democratic senators are pressing the Department of Transportation to increase the compensation for passengers of canceled and delayed flights when at the fault of the airline.
On Wednesday, Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg saying the airlines should be responsible for passengers’ “secondary costs” when they cancel or “significantly” delay a flight.
“The refunds rule should require airlines to cover secondary costs – such as hotel rooms, food, and drink, and transportation to-and-from the airport – when an airline, due to a problem within its control, cancels or significantly delays a flight,” they continued.
Airlines have already dished out over $600 million in refunds to those who experienced flight delays or canceled flights since the start of the pandemic, CNN reported.
But federal regulators claim some airlines have somehow gone around the rules, which has led the department to issue $7.25 million in fines against six airlines for “extreme delays in providing those refunds to passengers,” Buttigieg confirmed this month.
The trio of senators also urged the department to strengthen and expand on its proposed rule when it comes to ticket refunds for fliers by pointing out data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics that show domestic airlines have canceled nearly 3% of flights and delayed 21% of flights by August of this year.
“This rulemaking is a critical response to the increase in flight cancellations and delays during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a record number of consumer complaints about the refund process,” wrote the senators.
Katherine Estep, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, said that their members “fully comply with all federal laws and regulations regarding cash refunds.” She added that in the first nine months of 2022, US passenger airlines “issued $8.3 billion in cash refunds, more than all of the refunds issued in 2021.”