Monday, January 22, 2018

Puerto Rico Senate will investigate suspected airfare gouging

By on January 10, 2018

SAN JUAN – Sen. Carmelo Ríos announced that he will be requesting the airlines operating in Puerto Rico to provide information on the cost of air fare departing from the island in previous years and the current year, as he suspects possible price gouging.

The request for information in Senate Resolution 489 will also include an order for the flight itineraries since 2015 to the projections for 2018, detailing the type of aircraft that is being used for flights from Puerto Rico.

As for airfares, the Senate Tourism Committee will not only compare the cost of the tickets, but also determine airlines’ profit per flight.

Sen. Carmelo Ríos (María Soledad Dávila / CB)

The findings of the investigation could be used to file a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In addition, Ríos said he would “like” Congress to also take action on the matter and a federal investigation into the behavior of airlines on the island.

Ríos explained that the resolution, which was introduced in November, is already in the Tourism Committee’s hands, thus requests for information could be issued next week. Likewise, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz will be addressing the resolution expeditiously, the senator said.

To explain what motivated him to propose investigating the price of flights from Puerto Rico, Ríos used his own experience in recent trips as an example. In previous years, he said, a flight to Orlando, Fla., had an average cost of $300; however, now they cost more than $1,000.

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The airfare issue is compounded by a decreased number of flights, which could lead to people leaving Puerto Rico having more layovers, which lengthen the travel time. The senator said that on a trip to Washington, D.C., he had to stop in St. Martin and Atlanta.

At the press conference, Ríos projected the itineraries of several flights departing from Puerto Rico to different States, whose prices varied from $1,500 to $2,500 and the duration of the trips were between 17 and 30 hours. The senator argued that the number of people flying to Puerto Rico does not justify a flight number reduction or increase fares.

“Those of us who have had the opportunity to leave after María for different official matters have realized that flights to Puerto Rico are full. So the theory that there is no tourism or that no people are arriving in the island is rendered null,” the majority spokesman in the Senate said.

Ríos said the matter is aggravated as Puerto Rico continues to receive recovery personnel, and to be able to bring them to the island, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains flight reservations for Puerto Rico.

“I don’t disagree with [FEMA’s reservations], but if there is already a 40% or 50% demand of guaranteed tickets for federal agencies, why halve the number of flights that are taking place?” the senator said, referring to JetBlue’s announcement at the end of October that it would reduce the number of flights to Puerto Rico until the end of 2018.

Regarding the type of aircraft the airlines use for Puerto Rico flights, Ríos indicated that they will be evaluating their capacity as well as models because information was received that after María some older models were being used.

“The information we have and want to corroborate is that the equipment is changing. The airplanes that are arriving to Puerto Rico are not the airplanes they had in the previous flight plan. After María, they changed the rules of the game. They started to bring older planes,” he said.

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