The recent Southwest meltdown that caused flight disruptions for thousands of travelers has prompted a new “passenger bill of rights” from a group of senators.
We’ve seen things like this before. But this one is different.
It has teeth.
Specifically, the proposed bill would require airlines to pay passengers at least $1,350 if they get bumped from an oversold flight.
It also would limit how much in fees carriers can charge for seating and bags.
“The status quo won’t fly any longer,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a co-sponsor of the legislation. “We must empower regulators and uphold passengers’ rights so they are treated with dignity before, during and after their flight.”
“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,” Markey said in a statement.
“Our nation’s largest airlines can’t even guarantee consumers that their flights won’t be delayed or cancelled, that their luggage won’t be lost, or that they won’t get stranded at the gate because of overbooking.”
It’s worse than that.
I can’t think of any other industry that allows businesses to sell more of a product — airline seats — than they have in stock, and to then screw over customers once they sell out.
It’s like that Seinfeld bit where he reserves a rental car and then there’s no car available. What’s the point of a reservation?
Making airlines cough up $1,350 every time they bump a passenger would certainly get the industry’s attention.
“If passengers could receive 1,350 bucks whenever their flight is delayed by four hours, I am guaranteeing you there’d be a lot fewer delays,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), also a co-sponsor, said of the bill.
Markey elaborated: “The goal is to level the playing field for our consumers.”
That’s a good thing.
So it goes without saying that airlines will fight these new passenger protections.
Airlines for America, a trade group, said it is “in the interest of all U.S. airlines to provide a positive flight experience for all passengers.”
But it said the proposed policies “would drastically decrease competition, leading to a subsequent increase in airfare prices.”
Or they would make carriers straighten up and fly right. I for one would be willing to see what happens.