Tag Archives: air travel

FACT SHEET: As President Biden Announces Historic Transportation Investments, Extreme House Republicans Try to Slash Infrastructure Funding

This fact sheet from the White House details Biden’s historic investments in transportation, while Congressional Republicans are using the threat of a government shutdown  to slash infrastructure funding.

President Biden wants to invest in America’s infrastructure, including passenger rail, but Republicans would cut funding that would impact making critical investments in improving the safety and efficiency of the Nation’s rail system and airspace, risking increased delays and cancellations due to outages and lost opportunities to improve safety, and undermine the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to promote innovations that would lower noise and emissions, improve efficiency, and help the industry keep flight costs under control © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, the United States is making historic investments in infrastructure needs so people and goods can get where they need to be safely, quickly, and conveniently. Today, the President is announcing $16.4 billion for passenger rail projects from his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which makes the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.
While the Biden-Harris Administration is trying to make travel faster, safer and more reliable, House Republicans are trying to make it slower, harder, and less safe.
House Republicans are turning their backs on their communities—both urban and rural—and undermining American infrastructure with an appropriations bill that guts funding for Amtrak and makes draconian cuts to transportation and infrastructure programs. As outlined in a Statement of Administration Policy, the President would veto this extreme bill that would slash support for infrastructure in communities across the country, while at the same time adding billions to the deficit with give-aways to wealthy tax cheats.
Extreme House Republicans’ bill to defund infrastructure is just the latest example of their brutal cuts that would hurt the American people—following failed attempts to cut investments in infrastructure in MarchMayJune, and September and to eliminate hundreds of border patrol officers and tens of thousands of Head Start slots for kids. Rather than putting forward these devastating cuts, House Republicans need to follow the lead of the Senate and get to work on a bipartisan funding agreement—and act immediately on the Administration’s supplemental funding requests for urgent national security and domestic needs.
Extreme House Republicans’ draconian infrastructure defunding bill would:

  • Severely reduce Amtrak service and undermine critical maintenance work by slashing Amtrak funding by $1 billion. This reduction in funding would require Amtrak to reduce most, if not all, long-distance services, reduce certain Northeast Corridor regional train frequencies, and reduce or defer nearly 400 capital projects across the country. The Northeast Corridor is the most heavily traveled rail corridor in the United States, supporting 800,000 trips per day in a region that represents 20 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
  • Cut transit programs across the country with an 85% cut to the Capital Investment Grant program. This critical program funds projects that provide transformative benefits for communities across the Nation by expanding convenient and accessible transportation options—while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.
  • Fail to make critical investments in improving the safety and efficiency of the Nation’s airspace, including by funding National Airspace System technology $500 million below the President’s Budget request, risking increased delays and cancellations due to outages and lost opportunities to improve safety.
  • Cut aviation research funding by over 20 percent, which would undermine the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to promote innovations that would lower noise and emissions, improve efficiency, and help the industry keep flight costs under control.

The same extreme bill includes deep cuts to housing programs, which would:

  • Result in 20,000 fewer affordable homes being constructed, rehabbed, or purchased in communities across the Nation due to a nearly 70% cut to the HOME Investment Partnerships Program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Put 78,000 children at greater risk of lead exposure due a rescission of over $564 million for programs that mitigate housing-related risks of lead poisoning and other illnesses and hazards to lower income families, especially children.

$600 Million in Refunds Returned to Airline Passengers Under DOT Rules Backed by New Enforcement Actions

Frontier Airlines was one of the airlines fined by the US Department of Transportation for extreme delays in providing refunds to passengers © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced historic enforcement actions against six airlines, which collectively paid $600 million to people who were owed a refund due to a canceled or significantly changed flight. These fines are part of DOT’s ongoing work to ensure Americans receive the refunds they are owed from airlines. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOT has received a flood of complaints from air travelers about airlines’ failures to provide timely refunds after they had their flights canceled or significantly changed. 

“When a flight gets canceled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly. Whenever that doesn’t happen, we will act to hold airlines accountable on behalf of American travelers and get passengers their money back.” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn’t also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund.” 

In addition to the more than $600 million in refunds airlines have paid back, the Department announced today that it is assessing more than $7.25 million in civil penalties against six airlines for extreme delays in providing refunds. With today’s fines, the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has assessed $8.1 million in civil penalties in 2022, the largest amount ever issued in a single year by that office. A majority of the assessed fines will be collected in the form of payments to the Treasury Department, with the remainder credited on the basis of payments to passengers beyond the legal requirement. The Department’s efforts have helped lead to hundreds of thousands of passengers being provided with more than half a billion dollars in required refunds. The Department expects to issue additional orders assessing civil penalties for consumer protection violations this calendar year. 

The fines assessed today and required refunds provided are: 

  • Frontier – $222 million in required refunds paid and a $2.2 million penalty 
  • Air India – $121.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.4 million penalty 
  • TAP Portugal – $126.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.1 million penalty 
  • Aeromexico – $13.6 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty 
  • El Al – $61.9 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty 
  • Avianca – $76.8 million in required refunds paid and a $750,000 penalty 

All of the consent orders are available at www.regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2022-0001. 

Under U.S. law, airlines and ticket agents have a legal obligation to refund consumers if the airline cancels or significantly changes a flight to, from and within the United States, and the passenger does not wish to accept the alternative offered. It is unlawful for an airline to refuse refunds and instead provide vouchers to such consumers.  

The fines announced today are one of the many steps the Department is taking to protect consumers. Below are additional actions DOT has taken: 

  • During the summer, the Department rolled out a new airline customer service dashboard to help consumers determine what they are owed when a flight is cancelled or delayed because of an airline issue. Previously, none of the 10 largest U.S. airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a delay or cancellation was within the airlines’ control, and only one offered free rebooking. However, after Secretary Buttigieg called on airlines to improve their service and created this dashboard, nine airlines now guarantee meals and hotels when an airline issue causes a cancellation or delay and all 10 guarantee free rebooking. The Department will continue to work to increase transparency so Americans know exactly what the airlines are providing when they have a cancellation or delay. 
  • The Department’s proposed rule on Airline Ticket Refunds, if adopted, would: 1) require airlines to proactively inform passengers that they have a right to receive a refund when a flight is canceled or significantly changed, and 2) define a significant change and cancellation that would entitle a consumer to a refund. The rule would also 3) require airlines to provide non-expiring vouchers or travel credits when people can’t travel because they have COVID-19 or other communicable diseases; and 4) require airlines that receive significant government assistance in the future related to a pandemic to issue refunds instead of non-expiring travel credits or vouchers when passengers are unable or advised not to travel because of a serious communicable disease. The Department invites the public to submit comment on this rulemaking by December 16, 2022. The Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee will publicly deliberate on the Department’s proposed rule on Airline Ticket Refunds and decide on recommendations to make to the Department at a virtual meeting on December 9, 2022. To register and attend this virtual meeting, please use the link: https://usdot.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_V2zwVF3RQfuoOkyYFVqvdA
  • The Department has proposed a rule that would significantly strengthen protections for consumers by ensuring that they have access to certain fee information before they purchase their airline tickets. Under the proposed rule, airlines and travel search websites would have to disclose upfront – the first time an airfare is displayed – any fees charged to sit with your child, for changing or cancelling your flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage. The proposal seeks to provide customers the information they need to choose the best deal. Otherwise, surprise fees can add up quickly and overcome what may look at first to be a cheap fare. DOT encourages members of the public and interested parties to submit comments by December 19, 2022. 

The Department has proposed a rule to refund passengers for services they paid for that aren’t actually provided (e.g., broken WiFi). 

For information about airline passenger rights, as well as DOT’s rules, guidance, and orders, the Department’s aviation consumer website can be found at: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer