Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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The Hill: Dem lawmaker introduces airline passenger 'bill of rights' legislation

Nov 20, 2017
In The News

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A House Democrat is introducing new legislation to strengthen airline consumer protections, which comes in response to a United Airlines passenger getting violently dragged off a flight earlier this year.

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) unveiled a bill on Thursday, ahead of the busy Thanksgiving travel period next week, that would require airlines to provide passengers with a one-page “bill of rights.” The European Union already requires a similar document to be posted online in order to better inform airline consumers of their rights.

“As we saw with the horrific United Airlines incident where a passenger was forcibly removed after he was seated on an aircraft, there is an urgent need for airlines to be transparent and inform consumers of their rights,” Nolan said in a statement.

Under Nolan’s measure, the one-pager would describe the airline’s policies for involuntary bumping, lost or damaged baggage, compensation for flight cancellations or delays and what happens when a traveler is disabled or injured.

Similar language was included in the House’s long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but the package has stalled in Congress.

The airline industry’s customer service practices came under fire this spring when videos went viral on social media showing a United passenger being forcibly removed from his seat and dragged down the aisle by his wrists. The airline said it needed to make room for airline personnel on the full flight, but the man refused to give up his seat.

Airlines are legally allowed to overbook flights and bump passengers against their will, through issues are typically figured out prior to boarding. They also set their own policies on who gets bumped from a full flight.

However, most customers are unaware that they are signing a “contract of carriage” whenever they purchase an airline ticket, and sometimes the document can be thousands of pages long.

Nolan’s bill aims to improve transparency around airline policies by requiring a simple, one-page explanation of consumer rights.

“With the holiday travel season approaching, this legislation is a crucial step forward in ensuring consumers’ safety and convenience — not just in an extreme scenario like the United Airlines incident — but also in dealing with everyday problems of baggage fees, flight cancellations, and lost baggage,” Nolan said.

The Department of Transportation already launched a website earlier this year highlighting the rights of passengers, but the agency revamped the page this week ahead of the Thanksgiving travel period.

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