Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the agency to stop promulgating rules that would hamstring its ability to protect aviation consumers. The lawmakers’ letter specifically responds to a DOT proposal to redefine and add new procedural hurdles to its enforcement authority against “unfair and deceptive” airline practices. This proposed rule would needlessly restrict DOT’s power to protect air travelers from harm and abuse, even though enforcement is already at record lows and consumer complaints have skyrocketed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We urge DOT to focus on implementing the consumer protection rules Congress has specifically directed, and stop prioritizing airline special interest requests to further undermine consumer protection in the aviation system,” write the lawmakers in their letter to Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “During the coronavirus pandemic, more than ever, DOT must not only preserve its authority, but also use it to act boldly and protect the rights of the flying public.”
A copy of the letter can be found here.
In their letter, the lawmakers note that DOT is the only agency with the authority to address consumer protection issues in the aviation industry, including ticket refunds, oversold flights, and tarmac delays. Moreover, DOT has failed to implement numerous consumer protection rules that Congress directed in the 2016 and 2018 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bills, including rules requiring refunds for delayed checked baggage and undelivered ancillary services. The Senators urged DOT to use its authority and focus its efforts on implementing Congressional mandates to protect air travelers, rather than undermining existing passenger protections and limiting the agency’s ability to hold airlines accountable.