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Attorney General Ellison announces airline passenger protection partnership with U.S. Department of Transportation

April 17, 2024 (SAINT PAUL) — Attorney General Ellison announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation to review and resolve consumer complaints against airlines and ticket agents. The agreement streamlines how the Attorney General and DOT will work together to review consumer complaints and identify violations of federal aviation consumer protection requirements.

The new process for addressing consumer complaints against air travel companies, outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the DOT, reinforces state and federal commitments to protect the rights of travelers. Minnesota is one of 25 states or territories that either signed an MOU with the DOT or expressed an interest in executing such an agreement. This action comes at a time when complaints about flight disruptions, lack of refunds, and lost or delayed baggage continue to be core passenger concerns.

Ellison praised the new coordinated effort that will provide better protection to millions of U.S. airline passengers.

“As Attorney General, it is my job to protect everyday Minnesotans from being ripped off by powerful corporations,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison. “I am thrilled that my office will now be able to help address consumer complaints against airlines and hold those airlines accountable when they do wrong by travelers. I look forward to making the most of this agreement to help Minnesotans afford their lives, and live with dignity, safety, and respect.”

“We take our mission to protect consumers seriously, and today's launch of the Airline Passenger Protection Partnership is an important milestone in that effort,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “By partnering with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, the U.S. Department of Transportation has expanded our ability to hold airlines and ticket agents accountable and protect passengers from unfair or deceptive practices.”

Federal law places the central responsibility for protecting airline consumers with the DOT. Under this historic agreement, the attorney general’s office will be authorized to investigate consumer complaints against air carriers, ticket agents, and other air travel companies supervised by the DOT. The attorney general’s office will work with consumers and companies to resolve complaints, and if necessary, will refer complaints to the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP). The OACP will prioritize their review, include attorney general’s office staff on letters of inquiry to those companies based on those referrals, and consult with the attorney general’s office before determining next steps.

The DOT will also provide technical assistance and training to staff in the attorney general’s office and will meet at least once a year with the attorney general’s office to assess ongoing efforts and to update Minnesota on any actions taken in response to state-referred complaints.

The MOU will last for two years, and Minnesota and the DOT may agree to extend it at two-year intervals after the agreement ends.

Ellison has urged the federal government to strengthen protections for airline passengers and asked Congress to authorize state attorneys general enforcement of federal consumer protection laws governing the airline industry.

Others that have signed an MOU with the DOT include the attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wisconsin.

Those that have expressed an interest in executing such an agreement with DOT include the attorneys general from Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington.

 

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