Committee chartered by Congress focuses on consumer aviation protections


The Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protections (ACACP) meets for the first time today. This committee is charged with assessing how well the Department of Transportation (DOT) is enforcing current consumer protections and recommending new consumer protections. Reporting to the Secretary of Transportation and through his office to Congress, this committee brings aviation consumer protection to the highest levels.

The members of this committee are Lisa Madigan, the Attorney General of Illinois (Chairperson); Charlie Leocha, Director of the Consumer Travel Alliance (Consumer representative); David Berg, General Counsel and Secretary of Airlines for America (Airline representative); and Deborah Ale-Flint, director of aviation at Oakland International Airport (Airport representative). Click here for the committee charter.

Charlie Leocha’s opening remarks can be found on after 10 a.m. on June 28th.

For the first time since deregulation an independent committee will report to the Secretary of Transportation and Congress about the state of consumer protections for airline passengers. The committee will review the current DOT rules, regulations, associated statistics and address how they are being enforced and whether any changes are warranted.

The current passenger protections already a part of the Code of Federal Regulation include:

    • Baggage liability rules
    • Overbooking and oversales rules
    • Tarmac-delay rules
    • Codeshare disclosure
    • Optional fee disclosure
    • Full-fare and other advertising rules
    • Airline airfare, tax and fee refund rules
    • Prohibition of post-purchase price increases
    • Airline reporting rules
    • Disability and discrimination rules

New rules mandated by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 yet to be promulgated

    • Review of tarmac delay plans
    • A DOT toll-free Air Travel Consumer Complaint Hotline (this should be expanded to cover other electronic communications)
    • Listing of countries requiring insecticide spraying in passenger cabins
    • New musical instrument carriage rules

Here is an initial list of consumer issues that consumer groups feel should be considered

    • Airline price transparency
    Consumers want to be able to know the full price of travel, including baggage and seat-reservation fees. These fees should be comparable and purchasable across airlines through all outlets where airlines choose to sell airline tickets.

    • Public education about passenger rights
    Consumers need a more proactive role for DOT to inform the traveling public about their consumer protections.

    • Explore allowing consumers to bring consumer complaints to state courts rather than limit them to federal courts.
    Having a committee that includes a prominent Attorney General presents an opportunity to examine an unintended consequence of airline deregulation.

    • Reimbursement of taxes and fees when airline tickets are not used or canceled.

    • Clarification of code-share rules and international airline alliance rules.

    • Privacy of airline and central reservation system records.
    With the increase in personally identifiable information being collected for the sale of airline tickets and because of new requirements from TSA, jurisdiction for privacy issues must be established.

    • Aggregation of multiple federal website information regarding travel.
    Each department maintains separate pages of valuable information for domestic and international travelers. Department of State maintains visa rules; Centers for Disease Control has vaccination and shot requirements; DOT publishes travel rules; BTS maintains exhaustive data on operations; and TSA, Customs and Border Protection and others all have independent websites. It makes sense to aggregate this information and make it useable and accessible to the public from one central website.

Some of these proposed changes are not actionable by the DOT; some of them are. However, this new advisory committee affords consumers a unique platform from which to petition Congress for changes that can only be made through legislation or through cooperation and coordination among executive departments.