RULEMAKING

It’s time to tell the TSA what you really think of it — and for it to listen

Oleg/Shutterstock
Oleg/Shutterstock
Travelers love to complain about the TSA, and even though the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems claims to listen, most of us know better.

Don’t believe me? Try sending the agency an email, complaining about your last pat-down. Do you hear the sound of crickets? Me too.

But now a court has ordered the TSA to listen, and to pay attention — and maybe, if we’re lucky, to do something about it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ordered the TSA to engage in something known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its screening procedures, and specifically its use of full-body scanners. You can leave your comment at the Federal Register website until June 24th.
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Speak out now on the TSA’s full-body scanners

hyxdyl/Shutterstock
hyxdyl/Shutterstock
It’s been almost five years since the Transportation Security Administration quietly began installing its so-called Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) — better known as full-body scanners — at airports nationwide. And now the government wants to know what you think of the machines.

In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the TSA to engage in what’s known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its use of the technology. You can share your opinion on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the Federal Register Web site until June 24.
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Where’s the outrage?

I have just one question in the wake of the Transportation Department’s so-called “historic” rulemaking on airline passenger rights.

Why isn’t the airline industry upset?

The new regulations will force airlines to disclose their fees more clearly, increases denied boarding compensation, requires airlines to reimburse checked baggage fees when they lose your luggage, and bans post-purchase fare increases, among other things.

And the industry’s reaction? It thanked the government.
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Air travelers, let your voices be heard

The federal government is giving travelers an extra month to comment on proposed new consumer rules for airline passengers.

You now have until Sept. 23 to let the Transportation Department know what you think of the regulations, which will affect everything from how an airfare is quoted to whether peanuts will be served on a plane.

Even with my God-given gift for hyperbole, it would be hard to understate the importance of this initiative for air travelers, which is why I’m writing about it again.

The earlier column drew an unusually large number of responses, the most common one being, “What’s the Web address for Regulation Room?”

Easy: www.regulationroom.org.
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Airline passengers get a chance to be heard on proposed regulations

If you’ve ever complained about air travel — and who hasn’t? — then here’s your best chance in a generation to do something about it.

Tell the government what you think of its proposed new passenger rights rules. You can do it right now, thanks to a new project called Regulation Room.

There’s a lot to comment about. The rules cover everything from tarmac delays to peanuts. If adopted, they could change the way Americans fly more than any single regulation since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978.
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The hard facts about the peanuts-on-a-plane rule everyone’s talking about

Editor’s note: This is part twelve in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

Ban peanuts? Really?

That’s the first reaction I get when I mention the final, and perhaps the most ridiculed, of the Transportation Department’s proposed new rules. Seriously — why would the government do away with peanuts on a plane?

The regulatory analysis (PDF) I’ve referred to throughout this series of posts doesn’t even address this contentious issue.
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No more lawsuit limits for passengers under proposed government rules

Editor’s note: This is part eleven in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

As someone who is currently being sued, you might think I’m the last person who would support a new rule that would allow more people to file a lawsuit against an airline.

But you’d be wrong.

True, getting sued is no fun. But I don’t think the airlines are having fun, anyway. Maybe their passengers will after this passes.

At issue is something called a choice of forum. Forum choice, in the legal sense, is a clause that allows the the parties to agree that any litigation resulting from a contract will be initiated in a specific court.
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Airlines must “promptly” notify passengers of flight delays under proposed rule

Editor’s note: This is part ten in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

If you’ve ever experienced a flight delay — and who hasn’t? — then you know that getting reliable updates from your airline can take an Act of Congress.

Actually, make that a federal rulemaking.

The Transportation Department wants to require airlines to give their passengers information on flight status changes through whatever means they use — including electronic messaging services, flight status tools, departure and arrival boards at airports, and gate attendant announcements — within 30 minutes of when that information either becomes available to the carrier or should have become available to the carrier.
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The truth about the government’s new “full fare” disclosure rule

Editor’s note: This is part seven in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

When you get a fare quote from an airline or online agency, you should expect to pay that price. Right?

Wrong.

It’s not that the travel industry lies — although it often does — but that quoting a less-than-inclusive ticket price has so many advantages.

For starters, the government doesn’t make you do it. It’s also easier to quote an “unbundled” fare. Plus, it makes you more money ($7.8 billion in airline fees last year, most of it tax-free).

All that could change if the Transportation Department has its way.
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New requirements would force international airlines to monitor and respond to passenger complaints

Editor’s note: This is part five in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

The deeper I wade into the new airline passenger rules, the more I find myself wondering: Why do airlines have to be told to do this?

Take its proposals about responses to consumer problems. In a previous rulemaking, the DOT had to tell U.S. carriers to designate an employee to monitor the effects on passengers of flight delays, flight cancellations, and lengthy tarmac delays and to have input into decisions such as which flights are canceled and which are subject to the longest delays.
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Government to airlines: Put it in the contract!

Editor’s note: This is part four in a series of posts about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

Talk is cheap.

That’s the gist of the part of the latest government rulemaking that is likely to give airlines the biggest headache. Instead of just “strongly encouraging” the airlines to adopt customer service plans, the government wants them to put it in their contracts of carriage, the legal agreement between them and their customers.

It’s about time.
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New rules would require airlines to meet “minimum” customer service standards

Editor’s note: This is part three in a series of posts about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

The heart of the government’s new rulemaking on air travel is a requirement that would set minimum customer service standards for air carriers. The government has never attempted anything this ambitious, and it is bound to be flooded with emails from airline employees and apologists demanding that it back down.

It’s up to airline passengers to say otherwise by commenting on this proposal.

Essentially, the third part of the DOT’s rulemaking does two things: First, it requires foreign airlines serving U.S. destinations to adopt customer service plans that address issues like offering the lowest fares available, notification of delays, delivering baggage on time, providing prompt ticket refunds and handling bumped passengers with consistency, among others. These rules are already in effect for domestic carriers.
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