Attorney General James urges US Department of Transportation to address widespread airline cancellations and delays

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AG James calls on Federal Aviation Administration to stop airlines
to sell tickets for flights that they cannot provide on time

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take action to address widespread airline cancellations and delays, which have disrupted the travel plans of millions of consumers nationwide. During the first half of 2022, 2.8% of flights were canceled, an increase of 33% compared to the same period in 2019. Airports in the New York area recorded the rates of highest summer cancellations in the nation, with Newark Liberty International ranking first in cancellations, LaGuardia ranking second and JFK International ranking ninth. Airlines seem to advertise and book flights they don’t have the staff to operate, leading to delays and forcing consumers to incur additional travel costs. In a letter to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Attorney General James calls on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement tougher measures to keep airlines online and redress any harm to consumers.

“Airlines that knowingly advertise and book flights that they do not have the proper staff to operate are against the law,” said Attorney General James. “Travelers are being forced to miss important events, pay more or change their entire travel plan because airlines are failing in their most basic function. The increasing number of flight cancellations and delays in airports across the country is unacceptable and travelers have endured too much confusion and frustration.I urge the US Department of Transportation to strengthen its oversight and regulation of airlines that bend the rules and cause disruption to travelers.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has received numerous complaints from New York consumers who have experienced cancellations from various airlines, including passengers who were offered rescheduled flights up to five days after the cancellation of their flights. A couple whose flight was canceled had no choice but to drive from Buffalo to Newark so they could still make their international connecting flight. A mother from Rochester who was visiting Florida with her two young children had her flight canceled and then rescheduled for the next day only for that flight to be canceled as well. The family were stranded at the airport, having already checked their children’s car seats with the airline, and had to return home due to their baby’s special dietary needs. The family had no choice but to book flights on another airline, spending over $1,100 to do so – for which they were not compensated.

The letter from Attorney General James explains that the airlines have engaged in a practice of selling tickets knowing there is an unacceptable risk that they will not have adequate staff to provide all the flights they have advertised. and reserved. The airlines then retain the money paid by passengers for the flights originally booked as if the airlines had provided the services they promised.

The DOT, which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has sweeping powers to regulate airlines and improve their practices. In her letter, Attorney General James provides recommendations for the FAA to avoid cancellations and delays, including requiring airlines to:

  • Advertise and sell only as many flights as they have enough staff to fly and support,
  • Provide full or partial refunds when flights are canceled or rescheduled, and,
  • Provide passengers with additional payments to compensate them for additional costs they incur due to flight delays and cancellations, including payments for hotel stays, taxi fares, car rental and transportation. ‘essence.

Today’s letter is the latest action by Attorney General James to press the federal government to improve air service and protect the rights of airline passengers. In September 2021, Attorney General James urged Secretary Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson to take action to end airline “slot squatting”, a practice where airlines occupy slots. flights at airports but underutilize them, keeping them just to prevent them. to be used by their competitors. In his Sept. 21 letter, Attorney General James urged the FAA to adopt a use-or-lose policy that would prevent the practice of slot squatting and instead allocate slots to airlines that would make the best use of the slots to provide passenger service.

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