U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Enhanced Protections for Air Travelers, Actions to Promote Airline Competition

(Washington, DC – Insurance News and Markets) – In October, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is taking action to enhance protections for air travelers and encourage competition in the airline industry.

“Airline passengers deserve to have access to clear and complete information about the airlines they choose to fly and to expect fair and reasonable treatment when they fly,” said Secretary Foxx.  “The actions we’re taking today and in the coming months will expand aviation consumer protections we have previously enacted.  These actions will enable passengers to make well-informed decisions when arranging travel, ensure that airlines treat consumers fairly, and give consumers a voice in how airlines are regulated.”

More than 700 million passengers are expected to board nine million domestic airline flights in America in 2016.  The sheer volume of people, flights, and miles underscores how fundamental air travel is to the American economy and to the lives of so many people across the country, which is why actions to spur competition in the airline industry are so important to millions of American consumers.

The Department will take action in the following areas:

Requiring Refunds for Delayed Baggage:  DOT issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which will ultimately result in a requirement that airlines refund consumers’ baggage fees when their luggage is substantially delayed.  DOT has previously taken steps to require airlines to reimburse bag fees when bags are lost.

Expanding the Number of Carriers Required to Report Data:  The pool of U.S. carriers required to report information to the Department about their on-time performance, oversales, and mishandled baggage rates will increase.  The current one percent of domestic scheduled passenger revenue threshold for reporting data to the Department will be lowered to include any carrier that accounts for at least 0.5 percent of domestic scheduled passenger revenue.  This change will apply to flights that occur on or after January 1, 2018.  The data will be included in the Department’s publicly available monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.

Requiring the Reporting of Data on Flights Operated by Code-Share Partners:  U.S. airlines will have to report data for flights operated by their domestic code-share partners (i.e., flights by generally smaller, regional airlines that are sold under the brand of the larger airline) in order to make their airline performance reports more complete.  The data will be included in the Department’s publicly available monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.

Providing Consumers with a Clearer Picture of Baggage Delivery:  Airlines will have to report to DOT their total number of mishandled bags and total number of checked bags.  Previously, they were only required to report the number of mishandled baggage reports, which were compared to the overall number of travelers.  This measure better informs passengers of the likelihood that their baggage will be mishandled rather than receiving their checked baggage in good condition in an acceptable and timely manner.

Prohibiting Undisclosed Bias by Airlines and Online Ticket Agents:  Airlines and online travel sites that display and sell airline tickets are prohibited from biasing on behalf of certain airlines how they present available flights for purchase without disclosing this bias.

Protection of Air Travelers with Disabilities:  The largest U.S. airlines will be required to report on how often they mishandle wheelchairs.

Giving Consumers a Voice:  DOT has announced the extension of its Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection to help build on the Department’s and Administration’s already strong record of protecting air travelers.  New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been selected to serve as Chair of this Advisory Committee as well as to represent state and local governments on the Committee.  Committee members also include: David Berg from Airlines for America, Mario Rodriguez from the Indianapolis Airport Authority, and Charlie Leocha of Travelers United.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.