PHOTO: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (photo via Flickr/yevkusa)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) this morning proposed new legislation for an Airlines Passenger Bill of Rights in the wake of the United Airlines debacle last week.
The stunning video – showing a 69-year old man who refused to leave his seat after being involuntarily bumped and was subsequently bloodied and dragged up the aisle and off the plane – finally pushed the fierce airline watchdog to make the announcement.
“The brutal and shocking incident on board United Flight 3411 was the latest disturbing evidence supporting the urgent need for a Passenger Bill of Rights,” he said. “Whether it is overbooked planes, delayed flights or lost-luggage, laws in place to protect consumers have been frequently and flagrantly ignored by airlines more concerned with profits than passengers.”
READ MORE: Canada Calls For Passenger Bill Of Rights
The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights calls for a minimum cash compensation for being involuntary bumped, as Dr. David Dao was on the United flight last week. United said it needed four passengers to volunteer their seats so that four crew members could make it from Chicago to Louisville in time to be reassigned for work duties. When nobody volunteered, it went to a computer-generated printout of passengers who would be involuntarily asked to leave their seats. Three complied; Dao, a doctor who said he had to be home to see patients the next day, did not.
That also prompted Blumenthal to include another provision in the proposed legislation – restrictions on airlines’ ability to bump passengers to accommodate crew or elite-level flyers. In addition, he asked for limits on the use of police to forcibly remove passengers, and the ability for fliers to sue airlines for unfair and deceptive practices such as tarmac delays, undisclosed fees, price gouging, chronically late flights or health and safety risks.
"I will be leading efforts in Congress to provide clear, enforcement rights for airline passengers, and new, stronger protections to ensure that airlines respect those laws—or pay the price,” Blumenthal said.
Business Travel Coalition Chairman Kevin Mitchell praised Blumenthal’s efforts, saying that compared to other industries airline passengers are in a consumer protection no man’s land.
“To his great credit, Senator Blumenthal’s bill would restore airline passengers’ right to sue airlines for unfair or deceptive practices or unfair methods of competition,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Such practices can include withholding ancillary fee information from travel agents, refusing to provide complete fare and schedule information to online metasearch sites upon which consumers depend for comparison shopping, undisclosed fees, price gouging, chronically late flights or health and safety risks.”