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Following complaints, AG Tong calls for traveler protections

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced on Tuesday that he is calling for stronger consumer protections against airline abuses. In a letter to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Tong — joined by 33 other attorneys general — contend that the agency’s new proposal for consumer protections doesn’t go far enough.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Tong’s office has received 260 complaints against airlines, according to the press release, many from families who were denied refunds when forced to cancel their travel due to illness or health concerns.

The DOT’s new proposed rule would declare it an unfair business practice under its regulatory authority for airlines to fail to provide appropriate refunds to consumers whose flights are significantly changed or canceled by airlines. Additionally, the rule would require airlines to provide non-expiring travel vouchers or credits to consumers with non-refundable tickets who are unable to travel due to serious communicable diseases.

However, Tong and the other attorneys general feel that while the proposed rule is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t meaningfully address consumer complaints. 

“We are in the midst of the busiest flying times of the year, which means added delays, disruptions, and headaches. Travelers deserve strong protections—and enforcement– against these unacceptable airline practices,” Attorney General Tong said. “Federal regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation are ill-equipped to handle the volume of complaints, and rules have not kept up with the kinds of abusive practices passengers are experiencing. DOT’s efforts are a first step in the right direction, but consumers need and deserve stronger action and accountability.”

Attorney General Tong’s suggested that the DOT adopt several measures to hold airlines more accountable, including requiring airlines to advertise and sell only flights that they have the personnel to support, the implementation of significant fines for cancellations and extended delays that are not weather-related or otherwise unavoidable and requiring airlines to provide partial refunds to passengers for any cancellation that results in a rescheduled flight which the passenger accepts but that is later, longer, or otherwise less valuable than the originally purchased flight.

The attorney general’s full list of recommendations, as well as the letter to DOT Secretary Buttigieg, can be viewed here.

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Tom Hopkins

A national, award-winning journalist from Bristol, Tom has a passion for writing. Prior to joining CII, he worked in print, television, and as a freelance journalist. He has taken deep dives into sexual assault allegations by Connecticut professors, uncovered issues at state-run prisons, and covered evictions in the New Britain Herald. He chose to focus on issues based in Connecticut because this is his home, and this is where he wants his work to make the greatest impact.

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