Everyone has had at least one horrible airline story. What is the government doing about it? Let’s look into it.
For years, the Transportation Department has relied on huge fines to deter violations of federal law by airlines. After a change in leadership, the emphasis has shifted to advocacy for the individuals instead.
In the first nine months of this year, the Transportation Department received 15,770 consumer complaints and responded to 2,009 information requests from members of the public. At the same time, they have also issued fewer fines. As 2015 comes to an end, the agency has only 14 consent orders assessing $2.4 million in civil penalties to its credit, compared with 23 consent orders and $2.6 million in penalties from last year.
That means that the agency is performing the fewest number of enforcements and assessing the lowest amount of penalties in seven years. However, as far as the agency is concerned, it is responding to the increasing dissatisfaction by helping them one-on-one.
Anthony Foxx, the Transportation Secretary said, “Airline passengers have a right to be treated fairly, and the department is committed to using all the tools at its disposal to ensure that this happens.” Of which, some of these consent orders do have some precedent-setting punishments.
The government fined Southwest Airlines a whopping $1.6 million for violating federal rules involving lengthy tarmac delays. Southwest didn’t have sufficient staff available to implement their tarmac contingency plan which resulted in passengers on 16 aircrafts staying on the plane for over 3 hours after arrival.
Hawaiian Airlines had a smaller, but still significant fine for not giving customers full compensation for mishandled baggage and violating full-fare advertising rules. The Transport agency learned that Hawaiian had a policy limiting reimbursement for damages associated with delayed baggage to a $30 day for a maximum of three days, substantially less than the $3,500 minimum level required by the federal law.
The agency also investigated a record number of civil rights cases such as a complaint by an Israeli citizen that had Kuwait Airways subject him to unreasonable discrimination by refusing to sell him a ticket based on his citizenship.
I don’t think that people realize that they can go right to the Department of Transportation and have them deal with your personal case. Remember this the next time you are not refunded, they double book your seat, or any of the other things that can go wrong with air travel – just go here.