California Attorney General's Office

04/16/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/16/2024 11:57

Attorney General Bonta and U.S. Department of Transportation Announce New Partnership to Tackle Air Travel Consumer Complaints

Agreement to make collaboration more efficient, effective

OAKLAND - California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced signing a memorandum of understanding or agreement to create a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to further air travel consumer protection efforts. The agreement formalizes collaboration between the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and DOT to more effectively and efficiently review and resolve consumer complaints and to hold airlines and ticket agents accountable when they treat consumers unfairly or deceptively.

"In the past year, more than 200 million passengers traveled by air to and in California, these passengers deserve to be treated fairly, and if they are not, deserve to have their complaints carefully and quickly resolved," said Attorney General Bonta. "At a time when consumer complaints over flight disruptions, lack of refunds, and lost or delayed baggage are at a record high, state and federal agencies must collaborate to address the problems consumers are facing. I thank the Department of Transportation for this partnership and celebrate today's important progress toward better accountability."

The agreement creates a formal pathway for DOJ to elevate consumer complaints to the DOT, ensure DOT response to those complaints, and to empower DOJ to seek more information from air travel carriers or ticket agents when investigating complaints.

DOT and DOJ have shared interests regarding passengers traveling by air. DOT ensures that the rights of aviation consumers are protected by reviewing and responding to consumer complaints about air travel as well as monitoring compliance, conducting investigations, and taking enforcement action for violations of aviation consumer protection requirements. Attorney General Bonta is the chief consumer protection enforcer at the state level and enforces California's unfair and deceptive practices statute against ticket agents. Establishing this MOU between DOT and DOJ will solidify the commitment of both parties to review and resolve consumer complaints against airlines and ticket agents, promote compliance with aviation consumer protection requirements, and to hold airlines and ticket agents accountable when they violate consumer protections.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to ensuring robust consumer protection for air travel customers.

In March 2023, Attorney General Bonta, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and a bipartisan coalition of states, joined a lawsuit challenging the proposed merger of JetBlue and Spirit airlines, an anticompetitive combination that threatened competition in an industry already experiencing the negative impacts of market consolidation. In January 2024, Attorney General Bonta celebrated a federal district court order permanently blocking JetBlue Airways' proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit Airlines.

In 2022, Attorney General Bonta urged Congress to pass legislation to enable states to better address consumer complaints against the airline industry. Also in 2022, Attorney General Bonta and a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, urged the DOT to strengthen proposed regulations to increase transparency in airline ticket charges and offered specific recommendations to address drip pricing and hidden fees, reduce the rate of airline cancellations, and provide meaningful relief to airline consumers whose flights have been canceled or significantly delayed.

In 2021, Attorney General Bonta joined U.S. Department of Justice and six other attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against American Airlines and JetBlue challenging an anticompetitive joint venture between the companies that was expected to cost California consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2023, Attorney General Bonta secured a decision blocking American Airlines and Jet Blue's anticompetitive venture.

A copy of the agreement can be found here.