Congressman Charlie Crist says he’s heard complaints from constituents about price gouging from United Airlines, and he’s written a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking her to investigate.
“While I understand the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand, no company engaged in interstate commerce should exploit an emergency to take advantage of the people,” the Pinellas County Democrat writes.
“When I served Florida as Attorney General, I was proud to pursue price gouging aggressively, before, during, and after hurricanes,” he said. “My office prosecuted offenders within the full extent of the law.”
Delta and United have been the two U.S. airlines that have engendered the most criticism this week for price gouging in Florida. Delta announced Wednesday that they were capping all flights out of Florida at $399.
FloridaPolitics.com contacted United Airlines Thursday night for comment on Crist’s criticism. They did not immediately respond but did tell CNBC on Wednesday that they were sold out for all flights on Thursday and Friday but had added six new flights, all capped at $399.
The text of the letter is below:
I write on behalf of my constituents’ concerns that United Airlines is gouging Floridians trying to evacuate Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever to threaten the State of Florida. According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Irma will bring potentially catastrophic and life-threatening conditions. As a result, local and state governments have taken steps to help Floridians comply with evacuation orders and save their lives, including suspending highway tolls statewide.
In response to public criticism of outrageous prices, several airlines, including Jet Blue, Delta, American, and Southwest, have capped rates and, in some cases, expanded outbound capacity. I remain concerned that as of this evening, United Airlines’ price remain sky high – advertising pre-storm evacuation tickets for 10 times more than routine flights. While I understand the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand, no company engaged in interstate commerce should exploit an emergency to take advantage of the people. When I served Florida as Attorney General, I was proud to pursue price gouging aggressively, before, during, and after hurricanes. My office prosecuted offenders within the full extent of the law.
While this may be nothing more than an airline pricing algorithm that needs to be updated, my constituents are running out of time. Consistent with federal law and regulations, please give full and fair consideration whether it would be appropriate for the Department of Transportation to investigate this matter. I look forward to your timely response.