STATEMENT: DOT, states to work together to resolve soaring complaints against U.S. airlines

Media Contacts

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Colorado AG unveil new protections for fliers in 18 states

DENVER — Standing amidst the check-in lines at Denver International Airport, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Tuesday that the DOT will work with 18 state attorneys general on a new bipartisan Airline Passenger Protection Partnership. This agreement, established in a signed Memorandum of Understanding, will create a “fast-track system” a state attorney general can use to help consumers who are the victims of unfair or deceptive practices. The DOT and the states will work together to investigate complaints for unfair or deceptive practices and make sure airlines cooperate with states, or else. States will now have access to the federal complaint database, which will help ensure that airlines and ticket agents cooperate with state investigations.

The announcement comes in the wake of years of soaring consumer complaints about delayed and canceled flights, the lack of refunds, lost bags and overbooking. According to PIRG’s latest report on the problem, The Plane Truth 4, complaints more than doubled against U.S. airlines in the first five months of 2023 (the latest data available.) That followed a record-setting 2022, when consumers filed more complaints against U.S. airlines than in any year in DOT history. Overall, complaints were five times higher in 2022 than in 2019, the last normal pre-pandemic year, even though there were fewer passengers in 2022.

For more than a year, exasperated DOT officials have said they don’t have the capacity to keep up with complaints. This partnership seems focused on resolving some of this problem.

In response to the announcement, U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray released the following statement:

“From cancellations to lost bags and problems getting refunds, consumer complaints have been pouring in — setting records over the last few years. The new partnership announced between the DOT and a bipartisan group of 18 attorneys general should help passengers get problems resolved more quickly and increase accountability for airlines that have too often violated consumers’ rights.

“Airlines have been skirting rules for way too many years and passengers have paid the price. Airlines will now have to answer to more than just the overworked DOT.

Check out PIRG’s consumer guide on your rights and tips to avoid headaches at