Obama Pushes New Consumer-Friendly Air Travel Rules

Less than three weeks before his successor will be voted into office, President Obama has proposed a series of new rules that could make air travel a lot less painful for the public. Associations offered mixed reviews.

The Obama administration’s proposed new regulations on air travel could help make flying a lot less frustrating for business travelers.

This week, the Department of Transportation announced a series of proposed new rules that would require airlines to boost their reporting of problems, such as when a flight fails to arrive on time, a piece of luggage is lost, or a wheelchair request is improperly handled. Even smaller airlines that operate feeder flights for larger airlines would be required to report such data.

“Major airlines are now only required to disclose on-time performance data for the flights they operate, not those of those small regional partners that the big legacy carriers partner with,” noted NPR aviation reporter David Schaper.

The proposed rules would also require airlines to refund baggage fees to passengers whose luggage is lost on a flight. And online ticket agents such as Expedia and Travelocity would be prohibited from favoring certain airlines without disclosing that preference.

In a Facebook post published Wednesday, President Obama stated that complaints about air travel are among the most common he has seen over the past eight years.

“I believe that when American families and workers fly, they deserve to know exactly what they’re buying, without hidden fees or last-minute charges,” he wrote.

Associations Respond

The effort received mixed reviews from the association sector. Among the most notable groups speaking up:

The Travel Technology Association, whose members would be affected by the disclosure provisions for travel-booking websites, said that “the administration employed a thoughtful approach” to that issue, while benefiting consumers with its other other announced regulations.

The U.S. Travel Association, while welcoming the administration’s approach, said that Obama, along with future presidents, could only do so much. “Executive rulemaking is one thing, but Congress must do its part to bring air travel in the U.S. back on par with the rest of the world,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow.

Airlines for America (A4A), meanwhile, was more skeptical, saying the proposed rules don’t consider the airline industry’s different business models. A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio emphasized that there is strong competition in the airline industry. “Efforts designed to reregulate how airlines distribute their products and services are bad for airline customers, employees, the communities we serve and our overall U.S. economy,” Calio said in a news release.

President Obama, shown boarding Air Force One last month. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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