Blumenthal: Airlines need to update computer systems, compensate customers for cancellations

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Everyone knows the worst part about air travel: delays and cancellations.

That underlying fear was only reinforced last week when Delta's computer systems suffered a massive, nationwide meltdown, leading to thousands of canceled and delayed fights and even more unhappy customers. And that occurred only weeks after Southwest experienced a similar outage.

While Delta did offer waivers and vouchers for many customers, the question does arise what an airline is required to do for travelers in those situations.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal says this is something that needs to be addressed, especially since it isn't the first, second, or last time it will happen.

Blumenthal says a big part of the problem is that airline consolidations have led to just four companies controlling 85 percent of the market. When big airlines merged, such as the joining of American Airlines and US Airways last year, their outdated computer systems had to merge as well. Blumenthal says many are still working off of software dating to the 1990s, and integrating the systems has caused failure.

"None of these airlines has invested adequately and that is why they've been plagued by these repeated, shut downs that cause not only cause inconvenience but great cost to the economy and the rights of the passengers are neglected," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said now is the time for airlines to invest in updating systems, and if the airlines won't do it voluntarily then federal legislation should be passed to compel them to have to do so.

In the meantime, he believes customers should be fully refunded when software issues lead to cancellations.