A New York lawmaker wants to end airline prices lifting off when natural disasters force thousands to flee for their lives.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez is introducing the AirFAIR Act, which caps price increases for flights from areas under emergency at 30 percent, after passengers scrambling to leave Florida before Irma paid a premium to leave the state.
Social media users showed rates on major carriers such as Delta Airlines leaping from less than $550 to more than $3,000 for potential evacuees, though airlines said that the changes stemmed from computer algorithms rather than deliberate attempts to fleece the vulnerable.
“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 said Tuesday.
“If tickets get too unaffordable, people who might otherwise have fled a disaster may stay, creating a danger to human life,” added the Democrat, who represents parts of Queens, Brooklyn and southern Manhattan.
Her bill would give the federal Department of Transportation authority to set caps when a state, territory or U.S. possession declares a state of emergency.
The AirFAIR Act stands for Airline Freeze of Astronomical Increases in Rates Act.
The department would be able to cap increases at below 30 percent if deemed necessary, with the Federal Aviation Administration tasked with finding if any companies break the rules.
Some airlines instituted their own caps after reports of prices flying upward as Irma marched through the Caribbean, with Delta limiting one-way fares to $399 both to and from Florida.
American Airlines and JetBlue both capped flights out of the state at $99.
Officials said Tuesday that 12 people had been confirmed dead after Irma first hit Florida as a Category 4 storm and continued soaking much of the southeast as it weakened.
Four reported dead in South Carolina and two dead in Georgia have also joined 37 deaths from Irma in the Caribbean.
With News Wire Services