02.17.18

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Urges DOT to Prioritize Consumers Over Airlines

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined her colleagues in sending a letter, led by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), 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.”

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

The full letter is available below and here.

  

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.