Senators Are Pushing for Air Passenger Protections, Including Refunds — What to Know

“This legislation will ensure fliers have the essential consumer protections they deserve...”

A group of United States senators are working to expand air passenger protections, pushing a pair of bills that would require refunds for delays, lost bags, and more.

The two bills — the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights and the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act — are being led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA). They include a host of protections, including some that airlines currently offer, but are not required to.

The push comes on the same day U.S. airlines canceled more than 1,900 flights amid wintry and icy weather in and around Texas, and weeks after Southwest’s late December meltdown in which thousands of flights were canceled during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Travelers arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York


“This legislation will ensure fliers have the essential consumer protections they deserve,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “The Southwest Airlines debacle is just the latest example of why we urgently need stronger passenger protections, as air travel has become more stressful, unpredictable, and uncomfortable for fliers. This legislation will establish clear, enforceable rules for airlines to follow, putting consumers first and restoring sanity to the skies.”

The first, the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights, would require airlines offer refunds for airline-caused cancellations and and delays by more than one hour, mandate airlines pay at least $1,350 to passengers who are bumped because a flight was oversold, and require airlines to refund bag fees for damaged or lost bags.

The second, the FAIR Fees Act, encompassed in the bill of rights, would “prohibit airlines from charging unreasonably high fees” for things like checked bags, seat selection, and ticket changes.

Last summer, the Department of Transportation put together an interactive dashboard that details airline policies on everything from rebooking to hotel accommodations, and more, but most policies are typically up to the individual airlines. The DOT requires airlines to issue refunds if a flight was canceled.

The push for these bills comes days after the House of Representatives passed a bill to establish a task force to study potential improvements to the Federal Aviation Administration’s NOTAM system, which was the cause of a computer outage that grounded flights across the country last month.

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