Sen. Bernie Sanders demands airlines refund passengers, be issued large fines for delayed or cancelled flights

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the U.S. Department of Transportation to take action to reduce airline cancellations and delays, he said on Twitter Wednesday.

“The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying flights for hours on end. It’s time for @SecretaryPete to fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed,” Sanders Tweeted on Wednesday.

As NPR reported, in a letter to Buttigieg, “Sanders called on the DOT to require airlines to refund passengers for flights delayed over an hour, impose fines on airlines for flights delayed over two hours, and impose fines on airlines for scheduling flights they are unable to properly staff.”

Sanders explained in his letter: “While the price of airline tickets have skyrocketed by 38 percent over the last year, airline delays have increased by 50 percent and cancellations are up by 18 percent compared to where they were before the pandemic. So far this year, one out of every five flights in the United States were delayed, while airlines are cancelling flights four times as often on high-travel weekends than they did in 2019.”

Noting the current shortage in airline pilots, Sanders repeated an accusation by the American Airlines pilot’s union that airlines are “intentionally scheduling flights they can’t staff.” He condemned the airlines for not fixing the problem – despite having received millions in taxpayer funds.

“During the pandemic, when air travel came to a near halt, U.S. taxpayers came to the rescue and gave $54 billion to the airline industry,” he added. “The top eight airlines alone received nearly $50 billion in taxpayer assistance from the federal government. Given all of the generous taxpayer support that has been provided to the airline industry, all of us have a responsibility to make sure that passengers and crew members are treated with respect, not contempt.”

Sanders noted that although passengers are already entitled to a refund “if the airline makes a significant schedule change and/or significantly delays a flight and the consumer chooses not to travel,” the Department of Transportation “has not issued clear guidance for what constitutes a ‘significant’ change or delay.”

He urged Buttigieg “to require airlines to provide ticket refunds and alternative transportation to all passengers for flights delayed between one and four hours,” and to also cover additional costs such as meals and lodging.

Sanders also called on Buttigieg to “strengthen and expand” the Tarmac Delay Rule, which he noted, “fines airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for allowing domestic flights to sit on the tarmac for more than three hours and international flights to remain on the tarmac for more than four hours without providing passengers an opportunity to deplane.”

He called for an additional fine of $15,000 per passenger “for all domestic flights that are delayed more than two hours and all international flights that are delayed more than three hours for reasons that are not weather-related.”

Sanders concluded, “Taxpayers bailed out the airline industry during their time of need. Now, it is the responsibility of the airline industry and the Department of Transportation to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the flying public and crew members are able to get to their destinations on time and without delay.”



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