U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders wants to punish airlines for scheduling flights they know they are unable to properly staff. He has proposed a hefty $55,000 fine for every passenger on flights that are cancelled due to insufficient staffing.
Senator Sanders Wants To Fine Airlines $55,000 Per Passenger When Insufficient Staffing Results In Cancelled Flight
This summer has been one long and continuous display of operational ineptitude by U.S. airlines. The biggest culprit is not the weather, but insufficient staffing.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sanders airs his objections then proposes a solution.
Sanders seizes upon the controversial allegation by the union representing pilots at American Airlines that AA is knowingly scheduling more flights than it can operate, arguing:
That is simply unacceptable. Let’s be clear. During the pandemic, when air travel came to a near halt, U.S. taxpayers came to the rescue and gave $54 billion too the airline industry. The top eight airlines alone received nearly $50 billion in taxpayer assistance from the federal government.
Sanders then proposes a number of remedies, including prompt refunds for delays over one hour, strengthening tarmac delays fines, and perhaps most controversial, imposing fines on airlines for scheduling flights they are unable to properly staff.
Airlines must be fined $55,000 per passenger if they cancel flights that they know cannot be fully staffed. We cannot allow airlines to increase revenue by encouraging Americans to book flights that corporate executives understand will never take off because of staffing shortages.
I share Sander’s frustration. While $55,000 per passenger seems disproportionate, airlines should be better held accountable for their poor operational performance by the same government that gifted them billions of dollars during the pandemic to maintain full staffing, precisely to avoid what is happening now.
Sanders is a politician too. Consider – how would you prove or disprove that the airline “knew” the flight could not be fully staffed? A bark without a bite…
Really, the place to start is introducing stronger passenger protections, much like the European Union. Those won’t protect against operational ineptitude (we’ve seen a horrible summer of air travel in Europe too), but it will at least compensate passengers for their lost time and inconvenience.
Senator Sanders has proposed a $55,000 per head fine on airlines when flights are cancelled due to insufficient staffing. His caveat that airlines must “know” the flights cannot be fully staff neutralizes the rule, but his proposal indicates growing lawmaker discontent over the sad state of operations in the U.S. airline industry.