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Senators Elizabeth Warren and Alex Padilla urge Buttigieg to ‘hold airlines accountable’ for high prices, delays

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In a letter received by CNN, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen Alex Padilla (D-CA) have put pressure on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to get tough on the airline industry by acting “aggressively’ to protect its customers.

Warren Tweeted on Tuesday: “Rampant flight cancellations and delays are costing Americans time and money. @SenAlexPadilla and I are urging @SecretaryPete to use @USDOT authorities to hold airlines accountable and promote competition to prevent higher prices.”

Both Warren and Padilla are pressing Transportation Department to hold airlines accountable for flight cancellations, “whether due to their own poor operations and staffing practices or through intentional schemes to offer flights they know they can’t staff in order to later cancel the least-profitable flights.” Warren and Padilla cited that 41% of delayed flights are for reasons which are in airlines’ control, and they are asking the Transportation Department for accountability for situations when preventable delays occur.

“After receiving tens of billions of dollars in assistance from American taxpayers,” Warren and Padilla said in the letter, “major airlines have reciprocated by dramatically increasing ticket prices and reaching new lows in their treatment of travelers.”

“Consistently delaying flights for reasons within an airline’s control is an unfair and deceptive practice,” the letter goes onto say.

A spokesperson for the Transportation Department stated that this is an issue they are aware of and they are dealing with it. “The Department expects that when Americans buy an airline ticket, they’ll get to where they need to go safely, affordably and reliably,” the department spokesperson said.

Airlines for America said their industry was severely affected during the Covid-19 pandemic and they are still in the process of getting back on their feet and managing travellers who are flying again “at unexpectedly rapid rates.”

Warren and Padilla also demanded a “hefty fine” for airlines who purposely overbook flights. “When this gamble fails, it should be airlines — not consumers — that pay the price,” the pair said.

The have also asked the Transportation Department to “use its full statutory authority more vigorously” to cease “excessive consolidation,” which they have attributed for “consistent” price increases to passengers.

“Decades of deregulation and consolidation have created an airline industry that routinely heaps inconvenience and abuse on consumers,” they said in their letter.

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