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Senators are urging the Biden administration to look into airlines’ business practices as travelers face a growing number of flight disruptions.
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with two other senators, sent a letter to the Transportation Department and the Federal Trade Commission Thursday urging the agencies to investigate major airlines and determine whether they are “knowingly engaging in unfair or deceptive business practices by offering flights that they know are logistically impossible to execute.” They also want to know whether airlines are compensating passengers for delays and cancellations.
US air carriers have struggled to manage demand, with 3.2% of flights canceled and 20% delayed during the first five months of the year. More flights were canceled in June 2022 than in any other previous June, Gillibrand said.
“The situation is particularly bad at New York area airports. Newark and LaGuardia are leading the nation in cancellations while JFK is not doing much better,” Gillibrand told reporters Thursday.
The letter, also signed by Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla (Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), was sent to FTC Commissioner Lina Khan and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Gillibrand said this is “step one” because the FTC and Transportation Department have investigative authorities and would be able to “get to the bottom of it” and see if there are actions Congress could take.
“I’m interested in extending the current ban on airlines buying back stock or issuing dividends, so if they are playing fast and loose, then I would perhaps write legislation to do that,” Gillibrand said.
Other officials, including Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have called on the Transportation Department to impose major fines for staffing-related flight disruptions.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org