WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), in response to an epidemic of passenger safety and comfort incidents, introduced legislation today to establish protections for air travelers. The bill, known as the Air Passenger Protection Act, would implement and expand a broad range of safeguards for airline customers, including those whose flights are delayed or cancelled and those whose luggage is lost, damaged or stolen. Among other provisions, the bill would also require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to promulgate equipment standards for airplane seats and bathrooms.

“Over 140 million Americans will travel by plane this year,” said Thompson. “They deserve to know their rights, and they deserve to have those rights protected. There is inadequate recourse for passengers when disputes arise, and most are unaware of the options available to them in the first place. As recent events have shown, the laws and penalties currently in place have failed to get airlines to appropriately identify and protect their passengers’ rights. This bill is an important step towards fixing that problem.”

Thompson’s bill would require airlines to maintain certain reserves of staff and equipment, aiming to minimize delays and cancellations, and would codify protections for passengers whose in-air amenities (wireless internet, entertainment, etc.) are damaged or inoperable. Overall, the bill’s provisions would:

  • Disclosures: Require airlines to disclose – in plain language, in writing and in prominent locations on their websites – the rights, responsibilities, liabilities and obligations of passengers, including the recourse available to them in the event of delays or cancellations
  • Responsibility for Delays or Cancellations: Specify which causes of delay or cancellation are considered “beyond the control” of airlines (severe weather, natural disasters, etc.) and which are not (personnel shortages, unanticipated demand, etc.). 
  • Delay and Cancellation Obligations: Clarify airlines’ obligation to passengers whose flights are cancelled or delayed, either for causes within or beyond airlines’ control.
  • Honesty: Impose fines on airlines that deceive or mislead customers as to the cause of a delay or cancellation.
  • Seat and Bathroom Sizes: Require the FAA to develop and promulgate standards for seat and bathroom sizes
  • Damaged Amenities: Require airlines to refund a portion of the ticket price if promised amenities (televisions, wireless internet, headphones, entertainment, etc.) are damaged or inoperable, and to refund the full cost of in-air purchases (wireless internet, entertainment, etc.) that do not work as promised.
  • Frequent Flier Disclosures: Require airlines to report basic statistics on their frequent flier programs and to inform passengers at least 12 months in advance before a reduction or devaluation of FFP benefits.

Thompson has been a longtime advocate for passenger rights. In 2007, he introduced legislation requiring airlines to provide food, water, medical treatment and restrooms to passengers stranded on tarmacs for more than two hours. That provision, along with a requirement that passengers be permitted to deplane after three hours, was signed into law as part of the 2007 FAA Reauthorization bill. Thompson has also backed numerous proposals to support airports in small or rural communities.

Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties.  He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and chairs the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.