On Puerto Rico: Menendez Asks U.S. Airlines to Spare Hurricane Victims from Exorbitant Costs

On Puerto Rico: Menendez Asks U.S. Airlines to Spare Hurricane Victims from Exorbitant Costs

“Disasters like Hurricane Maria should present an opportunity to unite in our shared humanity, not profit off the suffering of victims”

    

Washington, D.C. – Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the highest-ranking Latino member in the U.S. Congress, today sent letters to the heads of U.S. airlines serving Puerto Rico to request they take additional steps that ensure victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico are not stuck on the island due to unreasonable fees or exorbitant ticket prices to the mainland United States.

 “As an island isolated from the continental United States, your companies serve as a vital link between Puerto Rican residents and their families, friends, and fellow Americans on the mainland,” wrote the senator in the letters to the CEO’s of American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Jetblue Airways, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. “As the situation remains critical in Puerto Rico, some residents may look to travel to other parts of the United States to stay with family or friends until they can begin to rebuild their lives on the island.  Recognizing the high demand for flights out of Puerto Rico and the limited capacity to provide them, it is the responsibility of each of your companies to ensure that residents, many of whom have lost their homes and livelihoods, are treated fairly and not charged exorbitant fares.”

"Acknowledging several of the carriers for choosing to cap fares for flights coming out of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Senator also raised concerns about reports of remaining price gouging by urging the industry not to compound the difficulty that the people of Puerto Rico are presently facing. Additionally, he requested the airlines consider waiving baggage, pet, and other ancillary fees for flights out of Puerto Rico since the storm victims “should not be faced with the difficult decision to seek shelter and solace with loved ones on the mainland while leaving behind their precious belongings or a beloved family pet.”

Menendez has played a leading role in Congress to ensure the federal government provides the necessary help to the U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. He has received briefings from FEMA and the Governor of Puerto Rico in the past few days, and has called on Republican leadership to allow Congress to do its part to help the 3.5 million American citizens on the islands recover and rebuild.

 

A copy of the letters can be found below and here.

 Mr. Edward H. Bastian

CEO

Delta Airlines

1030 Delta Blvd.

Atlanta, GA 30354

 

Mr. Barry Biffle

President

Frontier Airlines

7001 Tower Road

Denver, CO 80249

 

Mr. Robin Hayes

President & CEO

JetBlue Airways

27-01 Queens Plaza North

Long Island City, NY 11101

 

Mr. Robert L. Fornaro

President & CEO

Spirit Airlines

2800 Executive Way

Miramar, FL 33025

 

Mr. Oscar Munoz

CEO

United Airlines

P.O Box 06649

Chicago, IL 60606

 

Mr. Bradley D. Tilden

President & CEO

Alaska Airlines

P.O. Box 68900

Seattle, WA 98168

 

Mr. W. Douglas Parker

Chairman & CEO

American Airlines Group

P.O Box 619616, MD 5675

DFW Airport, TX 75261

 

Mr. Gary Kelly

CEO

Southwest Airlines

P.O. Box 36647-1CR

Dallas, Texas 75235

 

I write to you today to request your continued efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.  As an island isolated from the continental United States, your companies serve as a vital link between Puerto Rican residents and their families, friends, and fellow Americans on the mainland.  As such, it is critical that you take common-sense and compassionate steps to ensure that those Puerto Ricans that wish to travel to the mainland while the island recovers have a reasonable and affordable opportunity to do so.

Hurricane Maria brought historic devastation to the island.  Thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, and every one of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents have been impacted in some way.  The entire island has lost power and some estimates show that it could be up to six months before electricity is fully restored.  Relief efforts continue and residents have begun to look towards rebuilding, but the crisis is far from over. 

As the situation remains critical in Puerto Rico, some residents may look to travel to other parts of the United States to stay with family or friends until they can begin to rebuild their lives on the island.  Recognizing the high demand for flights out of Puerto Rico and the limited capacity to provide them, it is the responsibility of each of your companies to ensure that residents, many of whom have lost their homes and livelihoods, are treated fairly and not charged exorbitant fares.  While I appreciate that some of you have already taken steps to cap fares for flights coming out of Puerto Rico, I remain concerned about reports of price gouging and would urge each of you to ensure that the policies of your company do not compound the difficulty that the people of Puerto Rico are presently facing.

In addition to providing affordable fares for customers, I also urge you to waive baggage, pet, and other auxiliary fees for flights out of Puerto Rico.  Many Puerto Ricans no longer have a viable home to store their belongings in or house their families or pets.  Together, these fees can add hundreds of dollars to a fare, providing a barrier to leaving the island for many and taking money away from families as they look to rebuild their homes and communities.  After surviving the storm and the damage it wrought, Puerto Ricans should not be faced with the difficult decision to seek shelter and solace with loved ones on the mainland while leaving behind their precious belongings or a beloved family pet.

I have always been heartened by our ability to come together as a nation in difficult times.  I saw it in my own state after Superstorm Sandy, and I have seen it this year after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  As Puerto Rico rebuilds, your companies will play a crucial role in the revitalization of its economy, bringing much needed tourism and business back to the island.  Now, in its time of need you must remember this important role in Puerto Rico’s community.  Disasters like Hurricane Maria should present an opportunity to unite in our shared humanity, not profit off the suffering of victims.  Implementing the measures I’ve outlined above will not only help to provide much needed relief to the island’s residents, but will demonstrate your continued commitment to Puerto Rico and its people.  I thank you in advance for your attention to these important matters.

Sincerely,

 

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