Today we’re introducing our Traveler of the Week feature, a recognition of someone who has changed the way we travel. It’s written by Steve Surjaputra, who has been our curator of travel news.
Not quite a year on the job, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is leaving his mark on air travel — for better or worse.
Foxx, who was named to the position last summer, is stepping into a regulatory minefield with a proposal Washington insiders refer to as NPRM 3, DC-speak for the third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to protect airline passengers.
The rule would require airlines to show certain basic fees upfront, at the time a fare is displayed. It would also add new reporting requirements for smaller airlines and require online travel agencies to adopt consumer protection policies. Our own Christopher Elliott dissected NPRM 3 in a recent Washington Post column.
NPRM 3 follows two other successful passenger-protection rulemakings under previous DOT secretaries, which significantly improved air travel, providing clearer disclosure of fees and improving compensation for lost luggage, among other things.
But this regulatory action may be among the boldest yet, and while Washington insiders know the credit goes to many people behind the scenes — particularly the folks in DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division — Foxx will ultimately sign off on these new rules after a 90-day comment period.
Interestingly, Foxx is more of a mass transit guy, at least when it comes to his track record. As the mayor of Charlotte, he oversaw the extension of the LYNX light rail system and started the Charlotte Streetcar project. Under his mayoral administration, he began a massive new project to bring new roads, bridges, and transit, as well as bicycle and pedestrian facilities to the city. Foxx is also credited with accelerating the development of the I-485 outer belt loop using a creative design-build-finance approach.
Will the airlines try to chew him up and spit him out on airline consumer protection efforts? They seem to be trying. The airlines loathe NPRM 3, and for all the right reasons. The industry’s antidote is a House bill called the Transparent Airfares Act, which consumer advocate Charlie Leocha refers to as the Big Lie. When airlines are trying to undo your consumer protections in the legislature — well, you’re probably on the right track.
Our hats are off to Anthony Foxx and the 55,000 DOT employees trying to protect the rights of air travelers. NPRM 3 is a great first step for the fledgling Foxx administration, but our recognition will only be validated when the new rules are released.
We’re confident that Foxx will not bow to the airline industry’s pressure to water down these new, consumer-friendly rules.