Re-elect Dan Lipinski Congressman

Bumped by Your Airline? Local Lawmakers Split on Remedy.


Crain's Chicago Business

Sometimes, even in Congress, a roll call splits lawmakers in weird ways without much apparent reason. That's certainly the case with a measure proposed by Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago,that would give airline passengers who are bumped or otherwise delayed more than three hours because of a mistake by their airline the right to rebook on another carrier with available seats. Sometimes, they'd even get a meal voucher and an overnight stay at a hotel, too.

Lipinski had some unusual allies on the issue. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., recently backed a more liberal challenger to Lipinski in the March Democratic primary, but nonetheless voted for his proposed amendment, according to the official roll call, and offered a similar one herself to a pending aviation bill. "Consumers need to be protected from (the) unfair industry practice" of dumping because a flight has been oversold, she said.

Also voting "yes" were two area GOP congressmen no one is going to accuse of being closet liberals: Randy Hultgren of Plano and Adam Kinzinger of Channahon.

But Lipinski's fellow Chicago Democrat, Mike Quigley, was a "no."

Carriers do owe passengers something in the event of delays that are their fault, like when mechanical issues occur, Quigley said in a statement. "But I don't think a government mandate directing one carrier to transport the customers of a competitor is the right way to accomplish that. Many airlines have already formed interline arrangements . . . thanks to market pressures and expectations, not government rules. In addition, this amendment could reward unreliable airlines and discourage investment in route infrastructure. If an unreliable air carrier is able to use the rest of the industry as a backup plan, they have little incentive to improve their service."

Ditto Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumburg. "The proposal was well-intended," he told me. But it actually could leave some passengers stranded at small airports if carriers, instead of working to make a plane available in three and a half or four hours, just canceled a flight.

And Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson. "The congresswoman greatly believes in strong consumer protections for flyers, but unintended economic consequences on forced contractual agreements needed to be examined more closely," her office said in a statement. "A majority of congressional Democrats and Republicans shared her opposition."

But Chicago Democrats Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez went the other way, voting for the amendment, along with Moline's Cheri Bustos. But Wheaton Republican Peter Roskam joined Quigley and others in voting "no."

For what it's worth, Lipinski blamed "heavy lobbying by the airlines" for the defeat. "But my fight for consumer protections will not stop, and I did receive a commitment from committee leadership that they will work with me on future passenger protections."

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