Editor’s Note: Maggie Hassan is a US Senator from New Hampshire, and Brian Schatz is a US Senator from Hawaii. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.
Maggie Hassan and Brian Schatz: United Airlines' steps to improve its relationship with travelers are a good start but we need something more
Proposed TICKETS Act goes further to guarantee passenger protection by law against the whole industry, they say
No passenger should ever experience the mistreatment that occurred on United Flight 3411, when Chicago airport security forcibly dragged a passenger from his seat. Like millions across America, we were outraged by the video that showed a member of the public being treated with such disrespect and inhumanity.
Unfortunately, we have seen this before. For far too long, many in the airline industry have failed to treat paying passengers with fairness and respect.
It is abundantly clear that we need stronger consumer protections for the flying public, and we need them now. That is why we introduced legislation this week with seven of our colleagues to strengthen consumer protections and prevent future incidents like this one.
The bill, called the Transparency, Improvements, and Compensation to Keep Every Ticketholder Safe (or “TICKETS”) Act, takes common-sense steps to improve the flying experience for all passengers.
First, the bill would guarantee that an airline cannot forcibly remove a ticket-holding passenger who has already boarded an airplane unless they present security or health risks.
Second, the bill would eliminate the limit on the amount of money that airlines can compensate ticket-holding travelers when they give up their seats on a flight.
Third, the bill would improve transparency by requiring airlines to specify on a passenger’s itinerary and receipt the airline’s policy regarding voluntary and involuntary denial of boarding procedures. It would also require these policies to be posted publicly at each airport gate.
Fourth, the bill would require the Department of Transportation to review airlines’ practice of over-selling tickets on a plane to determine whether or not there is a need for policy changes.
Finally, the bill would require flight crews who want a seat on a plane to check in to a flight at least 60 minutes before the plane departs.
Public Citizen, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting consumer health and safety, has endorsed the TICKETS Act, recognizing that it is an important step toward improving travel conditions for the flying public.
Now, even United Airlines has acknowledged that its policies have been inadequate. On Thursday, it was announced that United reached a settlement with the victim.
Before introducing this bill, we sent a letter to United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz calling for answers about the incident and urging the airline to make necessary improvements to ensure that such an incident never happens again. And this week, United announced a series of preventative steps, including reducing the amount of overbooking and limiting the use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
The fact that United agrees that its policies need to change only reinforces the importance of implementing the reforms outlined in the TICKETS Act. While the airline’s measures are a good first step, consumer protections for passengers need to be guaranteed by law so that the industry as a whole is held accountable.
The TICKETS Act is critical to supporting those efforts, and we will continue to work with members of both parties to ensure that when airlines invite customers to “fly the friendly skies,” the skies truly are friendly and safe.
Get our free weekly newsletter
Strengthening consumer protections for the flying public is critical to the safety of travelers and to the continued vitality of the airline industry. At a time when the airline industry is earning record profits, we will work diligently to ensure that the industry takes every step necessary to enhance customer service and improve best practices for treating passengers with the respect and fairness that they deserve.