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Attorney General Josh Stein Partners with U.S. Department of Transportation to Protect Airline Passengers

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Nazneen Ahmed (919) 716-0060

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation to review and resolve consumer complaints against airlines and ticket agents and identify violations of federal aviation consumer protections.

“Too often, air travel is a headache. This partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation authorizes my office to better protect North Carolina air travelers when they run into issues,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I am grateful to the U.S. DOT for its commitment to protecting airline consumers.”

The new process for addressing consumer complaints against air travel companies, outlined in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the DOT, reinforces state and federal commitments to protect the rights of the travelers. 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.

“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 North Carolina on any actions taken in response to state-referred complaints. The MOU will last for two years, and North Carolina and the DOT may agree to extend it at two-year intervals after the agreement ends.

Attorney General Stein has urged the federal government to strengthen protections for airline passengers and asked Congress to authorize state attorneys general to enforce 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, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the MOU is available here.