Airline passengers affected by overbooked flights could be reimbursed $1,350 if this legislation is passed
- February 9, 2023
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Among the many frustrations that airline passengers face today, one of the greatest is being bumped off an overbooked flight.
In 2022, according to statistics from the Department of Transportation, there was a significant increase in the number of passengers being involuntarily kicked off flights. And so far, this uptrend shows no signs of slowing down in 2023.
But what if you were guaranteed at least $1,350 if your airline hauled you off an overcrowded plane? That’s what two US senators have proposed in two new bills aimed at introducing more consumer protections in the airline industry.
Along with other protections against unfair fares, the legislation would set $1,350 as the minimum amount of compensation US and international airlines would have to pay to passengers who are involuntarily kicked off an overbooked flight. It would also prohibit airlines from capping the amount made available to passengers for voluntarily giving up their seat and would encourage all compensation to be paid in cash (rather than, for example, air travel vouchers).
The new minimum compensation would be a big win for airmen. Currently, the US Department of Transportation requires airlines to compensate passengers who have been knocked down, but only if the denied boarding delays their travel plans by a certain amount of time. For example, if denied boarding causes a two to four hour delay on a domestic flight, the airline would have to refund 200 percent of the one-way fee, with some airlines capping that amount at $775.
If a passenger who was hit arrives at their destination within one hour of their scheduled arrival time, airlines are not currently required to pay compensation.
The bills are called Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights and Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act. Both pieces of legislation, introduced by Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal in early February, would also establish numerous other passenger rights, such as:
Prevent airlines from further reducing their seating until the FAA can establish a federal minimum seat size, crack down on airlines that use weather as an excuse for delays and cancellations that are actually the airlines fault, require potable water and restrooms on must be available on board free of charge and that toilets should be suitable for passengers with disabilities. Require airlines to offer ticket refunds and alternative transportation for flights delayed from one to four hours
“Our country’s largest airlines cannot even guarantee consumers that their flights will not be delayed or canceled, that their luggage will not be lost, or that they will not be stuck at the gate because of overbooking,” Markey told the legislation in a recent press release: ” We must strengthen regulators and uphold passengers’ rights so that they are treated with dignity before, during and after their flight.”
The bills, co-sponsored by six other senators including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, come as the DOT has begun taking at least some action against airlines. Last November, the DOT returned $600 million in COVID-related refunds to passengers and fined airlines $7.5 million for “extreme delays” in issuing the refunds, most of which date back to 2020 come.