Fox joins other attorneys general in seeking protections for airline passengers

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. (Missoula Current file photo)

As airlines announce sweeping layoffs, Attorney General Tim Fox joined other states in urging Congress to enact consumer protections for passengers as part of a new relief package, or through separate legislation.

In a letter this week, Fox joined 39 other attorneys general in citing a number of consumer complaints, including the failure of airlines to refund customers when flights are canceled or significantly delayed.

The letter also suggests that carries have failed to provide customers with a means to redeem credits or vouchers, and have failed to provide customers a reliable way to resolve such issues.

“These issues resulted in consumers losing thousands of dollars in flight credits, which is particularly disturbing considering airlines benefited from taxpayer-funded federal relief payments and loans,” Fox said. “While we recognize the importance of protecting the industry and its employees during this difficult time, my attorneys general colleagues and I also believe that doing so is compatible with protecting consumers.”

Airlines were eligible under the CARES Act to receive more than $50 billion in loans and grants. A portion of that was designed to help airlines retain pilots and other workers as demand for service plummeted early in the pandemic.

But airlines began warning in August that they’ve only partially recovered from the crisis and still faced a dire financial situation. That came to bear this week, as United and American airlines announced their plans to cut 32,000 employees.

Missoula International Airport this week said it was hopeful the cuts wouldn’t impact local service.

Congress is currently considering extending federal support by another six months and granting the industry an additional $28 billion in payroll support. Fox and other attorneys general are urging Congress to add additional protections along with the way.

“If there’s not enough time or the ability to include critical consumer protections as part of the enacted relief measures, then Congress should act to do so in subsequent legislation as soon as possible,” Fox said.