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Steve’s Corner: Unfinished Business At US Department Of Transportation


TravelTech on December 01, 2016

With the election behind us and the transition underway, there has been great speculation about what to expect from a Trump Administration Department of Transportation. With many open consumer protection issues before the current DOT, will they be resolved before January 20, 2017?

For example, the Rulemaking on Passenger Protections III has been in process for years. Just this past September the DOT segmented the rulemaking into several components, the first of which was finalized in October. The much-anticipated second section on the transparency of airline ancillary fees, is due to be released for public comment on January 22, two days after President Trump takes office. Along similar lines, the DOT issued a Request for Information on the practice by airlines to restrict access to public fare and schedule information. The current closing date for this action is December 30, 2016.  Clearly, the Obama Administration’s DOT has a lot of unfinished business to address before Inauguration Day.

Just this week, President-Elect Trump announced the nomination of Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation. While we don’t really know what the DOT’s perspective will be regarding consumer issues in air travel, we are hopeful that there will be a recognition of the need for a transparent and competitive and vibrant marketplace. Access to accurate fare and schedule information in a competitive environment and knowing the full cost of a trip including bags and seat selection at the time of booking are two core principles we hope the new administration will address on behalf of consumers. Afterall, airlines benefit from federal pre-emption. There is no right of action by states or private action by citizens against airlines.  There is no other venue where consumers can be protected.   In a highly-consolidated market where four airlines are responsible for over 80% of domestic capacity, it is critical for the DOT to live up to its charter on consumer protection.