Velázquez Seeks to Address Airline Price Gouging During Disasters
Measure Introduced Following Irma
Washington, DC – After airline ticket fares skyrocketed before and following Hurricane Irma, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced legislation to cap airfares when a disaster has been declared. Under Velázquez’s bill, the “AirFAIR Act”, when a state, territory or U.S. possession makes a disaster declaration, airlines would be prohibited from making price hikes exceeding 30%. Furthermore, the Department of Transportation would have authority to further reduce the maximum allowed price increase during catastrophes.
“There may well be price fluctuations related to changes in market conditions, but allowing a 30% increase in pricing should provide more than enough flexibility to address these changes,” Velázquez said. “What is unacceptable is seeing ticket prices increase six-fold when residents are trying to flee the path of a hurricane.”
As the nation contends with the aftermaths of Harvey and Irma and prepares for Hurricane Jose, there have been multiple reports of airlines drastically increasing prices. Some consumers noted price increases from $547 to over $3200. Other travelers posted on social media fares of $1,738 for flights between Miami and Indianapolis and a $2,370 flight between Miami and Los Angeles. Airlines have contended that they did not change their pricing structure and that price changes are dictated by computer algorithms on the companies’ booking websites.
“Whether these drastic price increases are examples of intentional price gouging or an unwillingness to examine how the airlines’ computer systems function, doesn’t really matter,” Velázquez noted. “If tickets get too unaffordable, people who might otherwise have fled a disaster may stay, creating a danger to human life. This bill will require the airlines to take reasonable, responsible steps to check price increases.”
A Democrat from New York, Velázquez is the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress. Last week she wrote to the Department of Energy asking for the agency to assist in repairing Puerto Rico’s vulnerable energy infrastructure following Hurricane Irma.
# # #