WASHINGTON - Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is calling for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to protect passengers facing a deluge of problems at airports across the country as airlines struggle to meet demand.
Sanders wrote to Buttigieg on Tuesday and acknowledged passengers' frustrations with flight delays, cancelations and high prices, and called for immediate action by the Department of Transportation to take action to address these issues.
When air travel came to a near halt during the epidemic, the U.S. taxpayers came to the rescue and gave $54 billion to the airline industry, Sanders wrote in the letter. The top eight airlines received almost $50 billion in taxpayer assistance from the federal government. All of us must make sure passengers and crew are treated with respect, not contempt, because of the generous taxpayer support provided to the airline industry. Sanders urged airlines to refund passengers for flights delayed more than an hour, including requiring ticket refunds and alternative transportation for passengers who experience delays of up to four hours and meals and lodging for those delayed longer.
The senator also called on Buttigieg to impose fines on airlines for flights delayed more than two hours and scheduling flights that don't have proper staffing.
Taxpayers bailed out of the airline industry during their time of need, Sanders said. The Department of Transportation and the airline industry have a responsibility to make sure that the passengers and crew are able to get to their destinations on time and without delay. In a statement on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman called for the Department of Transportation to take action, saying that the situation is ridiculous. People are missing weddings, funerals, family reunions, and other precious moments because airlines are failing consumers. This is not just a tough weekend of travel. He said that this happened the weekend after the weekend. It's long past time for our government to step in and make some order to this situation.