Pennsylvania Joins Forces with U.S. Department of Transportation to Enhance Airline Consumer Protection

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HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry this week announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This collaboration, formalized through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), aims to ensure fair treatment for airline passengers by addressing and resolving consumer complaints against airlines and ticket agents.

The agreement marks Pennsylvania as one of 15 states to engage directly with the DOT in response to increasing concerns over flight disruptions, difficulties obtaining refunds, and issues with lost or delayed baggage. These problems have become particularly pressing as the nation approaches the busy summer travel season, a period historically fraught with heightened stress for both airlines and passengers.

“This memorandum is a message to airline companies and ticket agents that consumer complaints must be taken seriously,” stated Attorney General Henry. She expressed pride in joining a coordinated effort that promises to safeguard the rights of millions of air travelers across the United States.

The partnership is not only timely but also critical, given the surge in passenger grievances about air travel. By leveraging the combined resources and authority of state and federal agencies, the initiative seeks to enhance the oversight of airline operations and ensure adherence to federal aviation consumer protection requirements.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the DOT’s commitment to protecting consumers, viewing the launch of the Airline Passenger Protection Partnership as a pivotal step toward holding airlines and ticket agents accountable for unfair or deceptive practices. “By partnering with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, the U.S. Department of Transportation has expanded our ability to protect passengers,” Buttigieg said.

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Under this landmark agreement, the Office of Attorney General will gain authorization to investigate complaints against air carriers, ticket agents, and other entities under DOT supervision. The office will collaborate with consumers and companies to resolve issues, referring unresolved complaints to the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) for further action. This referral process includes prioritizing reviews, incorporating feedback from the Office of Attorney General, and determining subsequent steps in consultation with state officials.

Additionally, the DOT will offer technical assistance and training to staff within the Office of Attorney General and engage in regular discussions to evaluate complaint responses and strategies.

Set to last for two years, with the option for extension, the MOU represents a proactive approach to addressing the complexities of modern air travel and consumer protection. It builds on Pennsylvania’s previous efforts to urge the federal government to enhance protections for airline passengers, including requests for Congress to grant state attorneys general the authority to enforce federal consumer protection laws governing the airline industry.

As the partnership between Pennsylvania and the DOT takes shape, it holds the promise of creating a more accountable and consumer-friendly airline industry, setting a precedent for collaborative enforcement of consumer rights at both the state and federal levels.

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