Buttigieg partners with state attorneys general to investigate airline complaints | ET REALITY


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday announced a new partnership with more than a dozen state attorneys general to investigate consumer complaints against airlines.

The association establishes a process for state attorney general offices to review traveler complaints and then pass the baton to the federal Department of Transportation, which could take enforcement action against airlines.

“The support offered by the state attorney general’s offices means our ability to protect airline passengers is expanding,” Buttigieg said at Denver International Airport, where he appeared with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. a Democrat who is among those joining the Association.

The federal-state initiative is Buttigieg’s latest move aimed at improving protections for air travelers and ensuring airlines are held accountable when they make mistakes. The Department of Transportation has issued more than $164 million in fines against airlines during its tenure, according to the agency. Buttigieg has also pressed airlines to place children with their parents for free and to improve the services they offer to travelers who experience long delays or cancellations.

The Transportation Department said the attorneys general of 15 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin) had signed agreements to be part of the society.

The attorneys general of the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands have also signed on, the department said, bringing the total number involved to 18. Of those, 16 are Democrats and two are Republicans.

Under federal law, states are generally prohibited from enforcing their own consumer protection laws against airlines. State attorneys general have pushed for federal legislation that would allow them to take action against airlines, just as they can against companies in other industries.

The new association does not give them that power. Instead, their offices would investigate travelers’ complaints and, if they determine that federal consumer protection rules may have been violated, could refer the matter to the Department of Transportation through an expedited process. The federal agency would then review the complaint and could take enforcement action.

“The ideal world would be one in which states have formal authority to enforce consumer protection laws alongside the Department of Transportation,” Weiser said. “Congress has not acted on it so far, but we are not waiting for action to be taken.”

In a statement, Airlines for America, a trade group representing the nation’s largest airlines, said it regularly works with the Department of Transportation and state attorneys general to improve the flying experience for travelers.

“We appreciate the role of state attorneys general and their work on behalf of consumers,” the group said, adding that it looked forward to continuing to work with them.

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