[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a $140 million settlement with Southwest Airlines over its mass flight cancellations during the 2022 holiday season. As part of the settlement, Southwest will provide $90 million in vouchers to future passengers whose flights are delayed at least three hours due to a problem within Southwest’s control.
“Southwest made critical mistakes in its response to last year’s holiday meltdown, and this settlement is a clear reminder that passengers must come first when airlines cancel or delay a flight. Although Southwest’s new program to compensate passengers for airline-caused delays is an important step forward, Southwest should provide cash, instead of vouchers, to passengers, and we urge the Transportation Department to require all airlines to adopt similar programs. Consumers should not be forced to cover the costs of airlines’ mistakes.”
In December 2022, as Southwest canceled thousands of flights, Senators Blumenthal and Markey called on the airline to provide monetary compensation to passengers for the cancellations, in addition to the ticket refunds and reimbursement for hotels, meals, and alternative transportation that Southwest already agreed to provide to impacted customers. In January 2023, they led 13 of their colleagues in a letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Robert E. Jordan seeking answers for its mass flight cancellations. Also in January 2023, Senators Blumenthal and Markey led the introduction of the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights and the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act, bills to expand protections for air travelers. In March 2023, Senator Markey, along with Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), introduced the Airline Operational Resiliency Act, which would require the U.S. Comptroller General to investigate airlines on their capacity to prepare for and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters.
In November 2022, Senators Blumenthal and Markey along with Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) submitted a comment to DOT urging the agency to strengthen its proposed rule on ticket refunds, including requiring airlines to cover secondary costs — such as hotel rooms, food and drink, and transportation to-and-from the airport — when an airline causes a flight cancellation or significant delay.