Buttigieg Knew: State AGs Warned Transportation Agency Of Airline Debacle Months Ago
Shortly before Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in September that airline issues would 'get better' before the holidays, a bipartisan group of attorneys general warned him that regulators' lax oversight over the industry was about to lead to chaos.
According to The Lever, federal officials stood by as Southwest Airlines executives, "flush with cash from a government bailout," showered themselves in cash and dividends, instead of shoring up fundamental issues that have contributed to this week's travel mayhem.
Four months before Southwest’s mass cancellation of flights, 38 state attorneys general wrote to congressional leaders declaring that Buttigieg’s agency “failed to respond and to provide appropriate recourse” to thousands of consumer complaints about airlines customer service. -The Lever
"Americans are justifiably frustrated that federal government agencies charged with overseeing airline consumer protection are unable or unwilling to hold the airline industry accountable," the AGs wrote in August, urging Congress to pass legislation which would arm state officials to enforce consumer protection laws against airlines.
On August 2, New York AG Letitia James sent Buttigieg a letter raising the alarm over "the deeply troubling and escalating pattern of airlines delaying and canceling flights," especially during the holidays. The letter made several recommendations, including;
- Require airlines to advertise and sell only flights that they have adequate personnel to fly and support. Perform regular audits of airlines to ensure compliance, thoroughly investigate airlines with excess cancellations, and impose fines on airlines that do not comply.
- Require airlines to provide partial refunds to passengers for any cancellation that results in a rescheduled flight which the passenger accepts but that is later or longer than the originally purchased flight.
- Require airlines to provide full refunds and additional payments for cancellations that require passengers to cancel their flights and assume additional costs, such as flights on other airlines, rental car reservations, gas, or hotel stays, in order to make it to their destination.
- Require airlines to provide full and prompt refunds to passengers, at passengers’ request, if flights are delayed for longer than a time period established by the FAA.
- Impose steep fines for domestic flight delays of more than two hours and international flight delays of more than three hours that are not weather-related
Congressional lawmakers put pressure on Buttigieg nearly six months ago.
Nearly six months ago @BernieSanders & I called for Buttigieg to implement fines & penalties on airlines for cancelling flights. Why were these recommendations not followed? This mess with Southwest could have been avoided. We need bold action. https://t.co/wVH4iAezfx— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) December 29, 2022
One week after the letter from the Attorneys General, Buttigieg told The Late Late Show With James Corden that the airline experience "is going to get better by the holidays," Lever reports.
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