Southwest Airlines failure renews interest in Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights

Southwest Airlines is returning to a relatively normal schedule after a winter storm canceled thousands of flights across the country ñ a failure that has reignited discussions about a proposed Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights.

The bill was first proposed in 2021 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). This proposal expands protections for air passengers and would require the Department of Transportation to implement regulations relating to:

- protections for airline passengers from being required to involuntarily relinquish their seats, unless necessary for safety or security;

- the elimination of the dollar limitations on compensation to passengers denied boarding due to overbooking;

- compensation to passengers for delayed or cancelled flights;

- interline agreements between air carriers and other transportation providers;

- training on the rights of passengers;

- unreasonable air carrier fees;

- unrestricted access of consumers to information on schedules, fares, fees, and taxes;

- accuracy in pricing of tickets and disclosure of lowest fares; and

- notifications to passengers of their rights and eligibility for refunds.

The proposal would also require the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit any air carrier from reducing seat size or leg room, and report on the quality of food and potable water on passenger aircraft and the sufficiency of flight crews and aircraft.

The bill also provides a private right of action for passengers aggrieved by airline actions and increases civil penalties on air carriers for violations of passenger protections.

"The historic storm was an act of nature, but consumers deserve major remedies for acts of massive mismanagement- air travel malpractice," Blumenthal wrote on Twitter just days after last year's Christmas holiday. "Southwest must allow customers to switch to other airlines & provide refunds right away."

In a series of tweets Monday, Blumenthal wrote, "Under my Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, Airline travel reliability wouldn't be up in the air. Passengers need access to courts & class actions - enforcement is essential."

"Airline passengers deserve complete compensation for all delayed or cancelled flights, full refunds for expenses, no more nickel & dime charges & fees, & other basic rights," he continued. "The Southwest Airlines meltdown shows again why travelers need protection - an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights with ironclad, fully enforceable remedies for rampant failings."