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New bill would force airlines to pay bumped passengers $1,350

Airlines would be forced to pay passengers who are bumped from an oversold flight $1,350 under a new proposal introduced in the Senate in the wake of a Southwest Airlines scheduling fiasco that led to 17,000 canceled flights over the holidays.

The bill, proposed last week by Democratic Sens. Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal, would require airlines to provide ticket refunds and alternative transportation for delays between one and four hours, and require airlines to pay for meals and lodging if a flight is delayed longer than that.

The “Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights and Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act” measure would also punish airlines for using weather as an excuse for delays and cancellations that are actually due to mismanagement, and force them to immediately refund bag fees for damaged or lost bags.

Sign shows canceled flights
AFP via Getty Images

A separate Department of Transportation proposal would prohibit airlines from charging parents and guardians for sitting next to their young children.

The measures came a month after Southwest’s outdated crew-scheduling technology melted down amid a winter storm and led the airline to cancel more than 16,700 flights over a ten-day period.

Southwest had said it would reimburse affected passengers for hotels, rental car and dining costs, but was facing lawsuits from at least one passenger for allegedly not making good on the promise, and by shareholders for allegedly hiding operational problems that led to the disintegration.

Luggage in the airport
AFP via Getty Images

Passengers with canceled flights may get compensation under a new bill.

“The Southwest Airlines debacle is just the latest example of why we urgently need stronger passenger protections, as air travel has become more stressful, unpredictable, and uncomfortable for fliers,” said co-sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat.

“Our nation’s largest airlines can’t even guarantee consumers that their flights won’t be delayed or cancelled, that their luggage won’t be lost, or that they won’t get stranded at the gate because of overbooking,” co-sponsor Senator Edward Markey added.

Passengers wait with their arms crossed at the airport
AFP via Getty Images

Not everyone was on board with the new proposals. Airlines for America, a trade association and lobbying group, issued a statement on the heels of the legislation claiming the law “would decrease competition and inevitably lead to higher ticket prices and reduced services to small and rural communities.”

Lawmakers claimed the proposed regulations would make the skies more friendly and orderly for all.

“If passengers could receive 1,350 bucks whenever their flight is delayed by four hours, I am guaranteeing you there’d be a lot fewer delays,” Blumenthal said, according to CBS News.