Senators urge airlines to address growing delays and cancellations
As airlines continue to cancel hundreds of flights due to staff shortages ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, a group of senators is urging them to address scheduling issues.
Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) wrote letters to 10 major domestic airlines on Wednesday requesting they provide data by mid-July to Congress about cancellations, delays and how many passengers received refunds or were rebooked.
“Flight cancellations and significant delays have real-world consequences for the travelers who may miss vacations, sacrifice time with loved ones, or incur significant financial costs,” the senators wrote in a statement.
Airlines are struggling to meet a high demand for travel amid a pilot shortage, but they are blaming the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for being short-staffed and not providing a plan for personnel ahead of the summer.
The FAA argues there is no major staffing shortage, contending that airlines should have used their pandemic relief funds to beef up their staff. The agency previously told The Hill staffing issues have occurred in a few facilities due to COVID-19 and other factors but said it has largely addressed the issues being raised by airlines.
Nearly 2,800 flights were canceled over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, with airlines attributing the cancellations to severe weather and COVID-19 cases.
“The financial consequences for flight disruptions extend beyond the price of a plane ticket,” the senators wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in June when they requested information on how the Department of Transportation would respond to the issue.
Buttigieg told The Associated Press in mid-June that he would wait to take enforcement actions against airlines until he saw whether there were major flight disruptions over the July Fourth holiday weekend and the rest of the summer.
Markey and Blumenthal raised concerns during the pandemic about how airlines prioritize passengers, introducing legislation that would require airlines to refund passengers in cash if their flight was canceled or if they canceled their seat due to COVID-19.
The pair also reintroduced the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights in November, which would expand protections for consumers including compensation for overbooked flights.
AAA predicts that 3.55 million people will fly this weekend.