February 16, 2018

Senator Hassan Leads Colleagues in Urging DOT to Prioritize Consumers Over Airlines

Senators Express Concern Following DOT's Request for Aviation Industry's Regulation Rollback Wish List

  

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) led her colleagues today in sending a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider the rights of consumers before rolling back critical protections in the commercial aviation sector. The letter follows requests from DOT for a list of rules and regulations that are good candidates for repeal, replacement, suspension, or modification. The airline industry filed a 222-page response, including requests to eliminate the requirement for airlines to display the full price of a ticket to consumers when they shop, and a potential weakening of requirements that airlines provide “prompt” service for wheelchair assistance for passengers who experience disabilities, among others.

 

“It is unacceptable that the DOT is considering rollbacks of critical aviation protections, particularly when the agency has failed to comply with directives in the 2016 FAA extension law mandating refunds of fees for checked baggage that is delayed and requiring airlines to seat families together whenever possible,” the Senators wrote.

 

“We implore you to take these concerns into account before enacting any DOT rule delays, repeals, or modifications,” the Senators continued. “We look forward to working with you on common sense measures that protect consumers, while preserving a vibrant and safe airspace.”

 

Senator Hassan was joined by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Ed Markey (D-MA) in sending the letter to Secretary Chao.

 

As part of her efforts to strengthen consumer protections for the flying public, Senator Hassan last year introduced the TICKETS Act to guarantee that a boarded passenger has the right to fly, address compensation limits for ticket-holding travelers, improve transparency, review ticket over-selling practices, and require flight crews seeking accommodations to provide more advanced notice. The TICKETS Act was included in the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill for FY 2018.

 

See below for the full text of the letter or click here:

 

February 16, 2018

 

Secretary Elaine L. Chao

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave, SE

Washington, DC 20590

 

Dear Secretary Chao:

 

We write to express our deep concern over reports indicating that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering rule changes to roll back critical consumer protections in the commercial aviation sector. 

 

If the airline industry were to achieve its stated goals in responding to your search for “existing rules and other agency actions that are good candidates for repeal, replacement, suspension, or modification,” it would result in weakened protections for consumers, including but not limited to:

 

  • An elimination of requirements for airlines to display the full price of a ticket to consumers when they shop.

 

  • An elimination of the 24-hour grace period a customer receives when purchasing an air ticket.

 

  • An elimination of rules requiring airlines to provide consumers with information about the process to file complaints against an airline with the Department of Transportation.

 

  • An elimination of airport signage and paper-based consumer notification requirements.

 

  • An elimination of the need to provide a paper-based explanation of denied boarding compensation.

 

  • A potential weakening of requirements that airlines provide “prompt” service for wheelchair assistance for passengers who experience disabilities.

 

  • An elimination of important Notice of Proposed Rulemakings such as one on reporting requirements for airline ancillary fees.

 

It is unacceptable that the DOT is considering rollbacks of critical aviation protections, particularly when the agency has failed to comply with directives in the 2016 FAA extension law mandating refunds of fees for checked baggage that is delayed and requiring airlines to seat families together whenever possible. We implore you to take these concerns into account before enacting any DOT rule delays, repeals, or modifications. We look forward to working with you on common sense measures that protect consumers, while preserving a vibrant and safe airspace.

 

Sincerely,

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