Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bill to Prevent Another Sun Country Airlines Debacle

WASHINGTON, D.C. [06/28/18]—Today, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) followed up on her promise to explore legislation to prevent another incident like the Sun Country Airlines blunder by introducing the Airline Consumer Protection Act.

Earlier this year, Eagan-based Sun Country Airlines stranded travelers in Mexico and around the country, leaving them scrambling to find additional lodging and their own way home. Sen. Smith’s Airline Consumer Protection Act seeks to ensure that this won’t happen again by guaranteeing that when a consumer purchases an airline ticket you are getting the transportation you paid for—which often is not the case in the fine print of airline tickets. The bill would also require airlines to provide passengers with alternative travel plans in the case of an airline-cancelled flight.

After hearing from Minnesotans who had been stranded, Sen. Smith introduced her bill ahead of the Senate’s consideration of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization, legislation vital to Minnesota’s aviation industry. Sen. Smith intends to offer her bill as an amendment to that important legislative package when the Senate considers the FAA bill prior to its expiration this fall.

“When somebody buys a plane ticket, they should trust that the ticket actually guarantees travel and that they’ll be able to get home. It’s that simple,” said. Sen. Smith. “My legislation would prevent what we saw happen earlier this year from happening again, and it would make sure all Americans can fly knowing that they won’t have to foot the bill for flight changes or be left to fend for themselves. People should be able to fly without fear of being stranded.”

“When you fly, you expect disruptions and delays. You never expect to be abandoned in a foreign country,” said Van Ellig of Fergus Falls, a Minnesotan who shared his story about being stranded away from home. “It was scary to see panicked seniors and families with young babies who couldn’t get ahold of Sun Country for days while realizing they couldn’t afford lodging for any longer than they had planned for. If passengers can plan for disruptions, so can airlines. This did not have to happen.”

Sen. Smith pressed Sun Country to explain how the fiasco happened, and she also pressed the Department of Transportation to work with airlines to ensure cancellation policies adequately protect consumers. The Airline Consumer Protection Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to begin a rulemaking torequire that:

1. when you buy a ticket, that ticket guarantee transportation—barring federally designated reasons consumers can’t fly;

2. should an airline cancel a flight, the airline is required to provide alternative transportation in a reasonable and timely manner and at no additional cost to the consumer.

You can access copy of the bill text here.