DOT should take these passenger protection actions today


Travelers United tells DOT, “Focus on already started airline passenger protection actions.”


passenger protection actionsTravelers Unites sees four areas where the DOT Secretary can change the system and get airline passenger protection actions with the stroke of a pen. We do not want to involve Congressional committees initially. Plenty of action over the past decade can be used to immediately change the status quo. Some of these issues have been part of consumer protection wishes for years. Start action today with the stroke of a pen by DOT Secretary Buttigieg.

1. Include passenger protection actions in the mission of DOT

In the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) Bill of 2018, the position of consumer advocate makes consumer protection part of DOT’s mission. This position, according to Congress, provides a focus on consumer issues. We now have the position, but the drafters of the bill expected more.
The mission of DOT currently does not mention consumer protections. However, the Department under Buttigieg can fix this as quickly as Secretary Chao changed the mission statement when she was appointed Transportation Secretary. The current mission statement needs the following last two-sentence paragraph added below for a major airline consumer win. Of course, this start can be edited.
DOT Mission: To ensure America has the safest, most efficient and modern transportation system in the world, which boosts our economic productivity and global competitiveness and enhances the quality of life in communities both rural and urban.
DOT is also the main consumer protector in the US aviation system. The Department guarantees a forum to process consumer claims and ensures passenger protections.

2. Display consumer rules on posters and videos at airports and on computer-generated boarding passes and flight itineraries. These easy airline consumer wins help the public at all airports.

This simple request doesn’t require any new legislation. The Secretary of Transportation could protect millions of passengers in a handful of months. The Transportation Secretary must choose to put the traveling public benefits in front of those of airlines.
Posters at airports inform passengers of their basic rights. In Europe, posters display passenger rights next to Jetways and above baggage carousels. Travelers United, back in its early days, even came up with a way that the private sector can absorb all costs. Plus, airports can display posters on a voluntary basis. Voluntarily displayed passenger rights posters in Europe deal with compensation for lost/delayed/damaged luggage, denied boarding compensation, and notification of European Union delay rules at international gateways.
Another easy and cost-free notification of passenger rights can be printed on all computer-generated boarding passes and on all flight itineraries. In the past, the Warsaw Convention rules printed on the backs of all ticket stock informed passengers. This simple rule ensures that consumers know their rights. The following sample shows what the notification would look like.
Passengers can claim up to $3,500 compensation in cases of lost, damaged, or delayed checked baggage; up to $1,350 in cash for denied boarding compensation, and other compensation for delayed international flights. File complaints with DOT at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm

3. Common refund and flight credit rules for the pandemic period and no flight credit expiration dates

You are being secretly taxed at airportsEach American network carrier offers different rules and expiration dates for airline flight credits. Southwest Airlines places a limitation on these flight credits of two years. Some airlines simply apply an expiration date of the end of 2022. Others vary expiration dates. Travelers United supports no expiration dates.

Airlines already get the use of the money for free as long as they hold the flight credits. No justification exists for having pandemic flight credits or any pandemic travel credit expire. The money belongs rightfully to the travel consumer.

Though many think that DOT suffers from hands tied by the airline deregulation act, they do not. DOT can act in the best interests of the country and take necessary action. A simple dictate from DOT similar to the instruction that required airlines to serve all airports during the pandemic suffices. The plague of different airline credits must end. Plus, the credits should not expire, The credit value should function just like a store gift card.

4. Initiate rulemaking for families sitting together. The 2016 FAA bill contains the law.

In a post written on December 4, 2020, I noted, “The Department of Transportation (DOT) instructed by Congress to solve this problem through rulemaking refuses action. However, Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, clearly challenged Congress.

Secretary Buttigieg’s staff needs to begin a rulemaking regarding the Families Sitting Together portion of the already-passed FAA Bill of 2016. The bill passed by Congress and signed by the President provides low-hanging fruit.

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall review and, if appropriate, establish a policy directing all air carriers … that enable a child, who is age 13 or under on the date an applicable flight is scheduled to occur, to be seated in a seat adjacent to the seat of an accompanying family member over the age of 13…

After a DOT rulemaking effort, this rule fulfills DOT’s mandate. Congress clearly passed the bill and DOT has an obligation to start a Department rulemaking. Consumer advocates gathered together with DOT representatives. It appears that a rulemaking to ensure that one adult-age member of each family or chaperone will soon sit next to those 2-13 years old.

Secretary Buttigieg, it takes the stroke of a pen to accomplish these four airline consumer wins

A clear path to real airline consumer wins at the start of the administration can happen. These low-hanging airline consumer protections already debated or passed by Congress can be enacted immediately. Secretary Buttigieg can move off square one and get some real change in place as soon as possible. Easy, effective airline consumer wins help the entire aviation industry and passengers.


READ ALSO:
3 ways DOT should post basic passenger travel rights at airports
Why we need a common flight credit rule for airlines from DOT, now


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