Proposed Law Could Require Airlines to Pay Bumped Passengers $1,350

Two U.S. senators are trying to implement a “passenger bill of rights” that, if passed, would give fliers more protections. Here’s what that means.

man looking out window at airport

If passed, two new bills could give air travelers more protections.

Photo by Shutterstock

Having paid for an airline ticket and still getting bumped from an oversold flight is one of travel’s biggest frustrations. It can require you to make new transportation arrangements, cost you a day of travel, and can also add unexpected expenses, like an additional night of dog-sitting services and bills for dining out.

And 2022 saw a massive uptick in the number of bumped passengers on the top 10 largest airlines in the U.S. compared to the previous year, according to a Department of Transportation consumer report. Nearly 83,000 passengers (including voluntary and involuntary) were bumped from their domestic flights in 2022, up from about 14,500 total in 2021.

Because of this trend (and the meltdown that led to Southwest Airlines canceling 17,000 flights over the holidays), two U.S. senators, Edward Markey (D–Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D–Connecticut), have proposed a pair of bills, titled the “Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights” and “Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act.”

“Our nation’s largest airlines can’t even guarantee consumers that their flights won’t be delayed or canceled, that their luggage won’t be lost, or that they won’t get stranded at the gate because of overbooking,” Markey said of the legislation in a press release. “We must empower regulators and uphold passengers’ rights so they are treated with dignity before, during, and after their flight.”

One of the bills’ proposed consumer protections is a guarantee that travelers be awarded at least $1,350 if they’re removed from a too-full airplane. Beyond that, the bills would also prohibit airlines from capping the amount given to passengers who voluntarily give up their seat and would push for travelers to be paid in cash (as opposed to vouchers for future travel).

Other protections in the bills include:

  • Requiring airlines to provide ticket refunds and alternate transportation for flights delayed between one and four hours
  • Requiring airlines to provide ticket refunds, alternate transportation, compensation, and cover the cost of meals and lodging (as applicable) for flights delayed more than four hours
  • Cracking down on airlines’ use of weather as an excuse for delays and cancellations that are actually the airlines’ fault
  • Prohibiting airlines from shrinking seat size further until DOT implements a minimum seat size requirement
  • Prohibiting airlines from charging exorbitant, unnecessary fees that bear no relation to the service provided (such as charging families extra to choose seats together)
  • Requiring that airlines refund bag fees immediately for damaged or lost luggage

While the two bills have been put forward, they’ve not been made into law yet. If and when they’ll be voted on hasn’t been announced, but already there’s been pushback from the airlines. Airlines for America, a trade group representing U.S.-based carriers, recently issued a statement saying the “proposals are short-sighted and would inevitably drive-up costs and reduce choices for the consumer.”

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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