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After Constant Airline Delays And Cancelations, Sen. Ed Markey Says It's Time For Passengers Bill Of Rights

BOSTON (CBS) -- Air travel during the pandemic is hard enough with long lines and masked flights. Then throw in the surge of Omicron cases, and you'll find frustrated travelers everywhere you turn at Logan Airport.

"Our flight has been delayed twice," said Addie Green of Vermont, who was trying to get to Mexico for her sister's wedding.

Connor Eubanks was waiting for a ride home after his flight to Kansas City was canceled.

"I had to drive over for like two hours. Now I'm waiting for my stepdad to come pick me up again," he said.

"Airline travelers in this country basically have no rights," Kyle Potter of Thrifty Traveler explained, while talking about an opinion piece he wrote about the need to compensate travelers for their ruined vacations. "Until there are serious penalties for airlines repeatedly failing customers, these things are going to keep happening."

Potter doesn't fault the airlines for the Omicron-related staffing shortages, but he says this is just the latest in a year of mishaps causing massive delays.

"Airlines have stretched themselves far too thin to sell as many seats as possible to make up for some of the lost time and lost revenue," he said.

Senator Ed Markey, who just a few weeks ago grilled airline CEOs about their unwillingness to compensate travelers, agrees that consumers need more protection.

"The airlines should have their own New Year's Resolution that they are going to treat passengers fairly," Markey said.

In November, Markey and several Senate colleagues re-introduced the Passengers' Bill Of Rights. It includes a host of protections for consumers, including:

  • Requiring airlines to provide ticket refunds and alternative transportation for flights delayed between one and four hours
  • Requiring airlines to provide ticket refunds, alternate transportation, compensation, and cover the cost of meals and lodging (as applicable) for flights delayed more than four hours
  • Establishing that $1,350 is the minimum level of compensation an air carrier or foreign air carrier must pay to a passenger who is involuntarily denied boarding as the result of an oversold flight
  • Prohibiting airlines from shrinking seat size further until DOT implements a minimum seat size requirement

"There is an outrage out there. We have passengers waiting in line, being gouged. I just think there is going to be a mounting movement across our country to pass a Passengers' Bill Of Rights," Markey said.

It can't come soon enough for one passenger who told WBZ-TV that he had to pay extra to wait eight hours for a rescheduled flight.

"We were supposed to pay like $140 dollars extra just to reach [our destination] today. It's frustrating for the customer," he said.

According to Markey, the U.S. Department of Transportation is working on some rules that will protect passengers, but passing the bill of rights will make them permanent.

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