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Sen. Bernie Sanders calls on DOT to start fining airlines for disrupted flights

Sen. Bernie Sanders in Staten Island, New York on April 24, 2022.
Kena Betancur
AFP via Getty Images
Sen. Bernie Sanders in Staten Island, New York on April 24, 2022.

Frustrated with the state of air travel recently? You're not alone. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the U.S. Department of Transportation to take action to reduce airline cancellations and delays, he said on Twitter Wednesday.

"All over this country, airline passengers are growing increasingly frustrated by the massive increase in flight delays, cancellations, and outrageously high prices they are forced to pay for tickets, checked bags and other fees," Sanders wrote in a letter to Buttigieg.

"Thousands of flight disruptions have left passengers and crew members stranded at crowded airports from one end of the country to the other forcing them to miss weddings, funerals, and business meetings and ruining family vacations that have been planned for months in advance."

With air travel demand surging, airlines have been struggling to keep up, due in part to a pilot shortage. When faced with problems such as inclement weather, many airlines have been forced to cancel flights entirely.

In his letter to Buttigieg, Sanders calls on the DOT to require airlines to refund passengers for flights delayed over an hour, impose fines on airlines for flights delayed over two hours, and impose fines on airlines for scheduling flights they are unable to properly staff.

"Taxpayers bailed out the airline industry during their time of need. Now, it is the responsibility of the airline industry and the Department of Transportation to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the flying public and crew members are able to get to their destinations on time and without delay," Sanders wrote.

Buttigieg himself has not been spared from travel woes — he told NPR in mid-June that he too had a flight canceled. In a June 16 meeting with airline executives, Buttigieg said he received assurances that airlines are taking extra steps to ensure smooth operations for the Fourth of July weekend, but was still concerned about disruptions.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deanna Schwartz
Deanna Schwartz is the summer 2022 Digital Platforms and Curation Intern at NPR. She has previously worked for the Boston Globe and GBH News.