Reuters reports the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is planning to hold hearings about the network meltdown which cancelled over 6,000 flights and stranded tens of thousands of flyers during Winter Storm Elliott.
Southwest Hearings Added to Annual FAA Reauthorization Discussions
The Senate Commerce Committee – which is also in charge of science and transportation – is partially in charge of the Federal Aviation Administration annual reauthorization, due September 30, 2023. The committee often uses the reauthorization period to consider new regulations around aviation and other carrier issues, and this year will be no exception.
Committee chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said that the network meltdown will be included in the committee’s hearings in the aftermath of Southwest’s network meltdown. The senator told Reuters she has been in touch with both Southwest chief executive Bob Jordan and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the situation.
“The problems at Southwest Airlines over the last several days go beyond weather. The Committee will be looking into the causes of these disruptions and its impact to consumers,” Sen. Cantwell said in a statement. “Many airlines fail to adequately communicate with consumers during flight cancellations. Consumers deserve strong protections, including an updated consumer refund rule.”
Although Southwest has not publicly commented on the committee’s intentions, the carrier says they are working to regain the trust of their passengers. In addition to offering refunds for reasonable expenses, the Dallas-based airline is offering all affected passengers 25,000 Rapid Rewards points as a “gesture of goodwill.”
Southwest Troubles Could Force Bigger Passenger Rights Conversation
While this isn’t the first time Southwest has experienced a major network meltdown, the situation could force both Congress and the Department of Transportation to reconsider aviation consumer protection rules. In August 2022, both Congress and the Transportation Department announced a set of measures which would offer flyers more rights. The International Air Transport Association says the public needs less regulations, not more.
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Source: frugal travel guy