Consumer Advocates call for Airline Reforms

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U. S. Senator Ed Markey highlights airline flight disruptions caused by unreliable computers


Logan Airport, 8/18/16

MASSPIRG commends U.S. Senator Ed Markey for demanding answers from the big airlines about their repeated system failures that ruin both business and leisure travelers’ plans, cost us money and time and don’t seem to be getting any better.

In the latest example of airline failures, Delta Airlines took much too long to claim responsibility for the recent service outage. After blaming the power company for days, they finally admitted that part of their own computer system had caused a “small fire” and that there were inadequate backups. News reports indicate that the problem caused over 2,000 flight cancellations, resulting in delays for hundreds of thousands of passengers worldwide.

It’s clear that Delta’s old slogan “Delta is ready when you are” no longer applies. And it’s not just a Delta problem. In this link is a list of other recent major airline technology and computer failures compiled by our allies at

MASSPIRG believes that the ‘free market’ is not working to make airline travel dependable. We look forward to answers to Senator Markey’s questions to the airlines and to working with his office on needed reforms to make airline travel safer and more dependable.

Among other things, airlines should

1-    have systems to prevent and correct technological problems,

2-    get passengers to the destinations they paid to reach,

3-    compensate passengers for expenses incurred.

What can be done immediately? We concur with that the Department of Transportation should reinstate its old reciprocity rule (Rule 240), which allows passengers on significantly delayed or canceled flights to use their ticket on another airline’s flight at no additional cost.

We also concur with that the airline industry should be required to have more and better backup systems, as a matter not just of consumer convenience but as a critical component of national infrastructure.

We are grateful to Senator Markey for taking the lead on this important issue.


MASSPIRG is a founder of and worked alongside it to gain passage of the “Airline Passenger Bill of Rights” in Congress and additional consumer protections established by the Department of Transportation. Our most recent report on airline consumer complaints, “Unfriendly Skies,” is available at Our fact sheet for passengers is at

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