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Blumenthal introduces Bill of Rights for airline passengers

Travelers wait in line for service at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter in Denver International Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Denver. With its flights now running on a roughly normal schedule, Southwest Airlines is turning its attention to luring back customers and repairing damage to a reputation for service after canceling 15,000 flights around Christmas. The disruptions started with a winter storm and snowballed when Southwest's ancient crew-scheduling technology failed.
David Zalubowski
Travelers wait in line for service at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is introducing new legislation to hold airlines accountable for delays and cancellations.

The bill aims to compensate travelers for inconveniences.

This comes as winter storms threaten to impact air travel across the country, and in the wake of major airline turmoil over the holidays.

Blumenthal is proposing individuals whose flights are delayed more than four hours will receive over $1,300 in reimbursement fees, as well as getting food and lodging expenses covered.

He wants to see wide support for the bill.

“This cause ought to be bipartisan,” Blumenthal said. “There's nothing Republican or Democrat about being stranded in an airport, it happens in blue states and red states, to Republicans and Democrats.”

The proposed legislation would benefit travelers like New York resident Jacqueline Lopez, who recently experienced a canceled JetBlue flight that ruined vacation plans.

Lopez said she is unlikely to travel with JetBlue again, and hesitant to travel by air at all.

“I would highly reconsider traveling with them again, and this affects, you know, anything I book on an airline,” Lopez said. “I pretty much told my kids, they asked if we can go for winter break coming up and I said that I wouldn't even consider booking a flight during winter break. Because what if this happens again. And their hearts are crushed.”

The proposals would also keep airlines from imposing additional high fees on customers.

Blumenthal pointed out that in 2019, the final full year of travel before the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines worldwide made almost $110 billion in non-ticket revenue.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.