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Thursday, May 13, 2021

US DOT urged to undertake shopper protections for airline passengers

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US DOT should handle considerations about COVID-19 well being dangers, refunds for flights cancelled throughout the pandemic, and a brand new rule adopted final November by the earlier administration that can hamper the company’s potential to curb abusive airline practices

  • US administration ought to instantly subject clear, enforceable necessities for COVID-19 protections on plane and in airports
  • The administration ought to strengthen and increase present DOT guidelines on passenger flight refunds
  • Revamp the Aviation Client Safety Advisory Committee (ACPAC) in order that it higher represents shoppers

Customers Reviews just lately outlined its suggestions for safeguarding airline passengers to the brand new management on the Division of Transportation.  CR’s suggestions embody early actions it’s calling on the DOT to deal with considerations about COVID-19 well being dangers, refunds for flights cancelled throughout the pandemic, and a brand new rule adopted final November by the earlier administration that can hamper the company’s potential to curb abusive airline practices.

Aviation Client Safety Coverage Suggestions for the Division of Transportation

Precedence Early Actions for the Administration

  • COVID-19 Well being Protections. Within the wake of the current masks mandate for business air journey, the administration ought to instantly subject clear, enforceable necessities for different COVID-19 protections on plane and in airports. Such necessities needs to be based mostly on one of the best accessible science and may apply to all US airways; all international airways working to, inside, and from the US; and all US airports. The protocols ought to embody enforced social distancing in airports and onboard plane, together with empty center seats between strangers; necessities for constant state-of-the-art plane cleansing procedures; in addition to constant, truthful, and smart insurance policies on testing, screening, and quarantining passengers and staff.
  • Flight Refunds. The administration ought to strengthen and increase present DOT guidelines on passenger flight refunds, significantly throughout “drive majeure” conditions reminiscent of a world pandemic. As well as, the DOT should vigorously implement these refund rules with US airways, international airways, and different ticket sellers, together with resolving excellent claims that haven’t been settled, in some instances since March 2020.
  • Unfair and Misleading Airline Practices. The Administration ought to promptly overview the brand new DOT rule, rushed to approval in late November, that created procedural hurdles for unfair and misleading practices rulemaking and adjudication. Implementation needs to be suspended, and steps needs to be begun to rescind it. This ill-conceived rule is completely pointless; its solely impact is to make it harder for DOT to train its personal authority to guard the touring public in opposition to abusive airline practices.

Additional Suggestions

  • Revamp the Aviation Client Safety Advisory Committee (ACPAC) in order that it higher represents shoppers.  As we and different shopper advocates wrote to Secretary Chao in October 2020, the ACPAC is essentially damaged. It’s speculated to be a discussion board for bringing shopper pursuits and considerations to DOT. However in its present formulation it doesn’t successfully characterize shoppers or adequately handle problems with concern to the touring public. This Committee needs to be reconstituted in a manner that gives a real shopper safety voice to the Division, with members who advocate on behalf of shoppers.
  • Household Seating. The administration ought to subject guidelines to make sure that households with younger kids at all times sit collectively inflight with out incurring further charges or being required to buy upgraded tickets. Congress directed DOT to subject such a rule in 2016, however left in a loophole giving the Division the power to say no to control if such regulation is just not “applicable.” Client complaints and considerations, in addition to a 2018 FBI report on inflight sexual assaults, clarify the necessity for such a rule.
  • Airfare Transparency. Implement full airline fare and charge transparency guidelines so that customers are at all times supplied “backside line pricing” for all flights previous to choice, inclusive of each necessary and “non-obligatory” taxes and costs. These guidelines ought to apply to all reserving channels, whether or not the tickets are bought by means of airways or third-party ticket sellers, and whether or not they’re bought on-line or offline.
  • Passenger Invoice of Rights.  The administration ought to develop a Invoice of Rights that can handle the obtrusive inequities in US airways’ Contracts of Carriage, paperwork which might be one-sided, binding, deliberately obscure, and totally complicated. Different nations—together with Canada and the members of the European Union—have launched easy, constant, and simply understood passenger compensation insurance policies for airline flight delays, flight cancellations, involuntary bumping, and mishandled baggage.
  • Seat Requirements. Develop minimal seat dimension requirements for all US business plane, together with regional plane working on behalf of main US carriers. Client Reviews has documented that economic system class seat pitch/legroom and seat width dimensions have diminished in current a long time. This reduces passenger consolation, but additionally will increase risks of blood clotting, and threatens protected emergency evacuations.
  • Emergency Evacuations. Conduct a contemporary analysis to revamp the FAA’s emergency evacuation requirements and testing procedures for business plane. Lately the FAA has relied on outdated pc modeling for such testing, and sure airways and plane varieties haven’t been correctly examined in additional than 20 years. These outdated testing procedures fail to account for the seismic adjustments which have overtaken airline journey within the final 20 years. As well as, there are legitimate considerations that pc modeling and even precise testing have selectively not accounted for real-world demographics, together with passengers with disabilities.
  • Federal Preemption. Work with Congress to eradicate the preemption clause of the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, in order that airline passengers acquire extra rights on the state and native ranges, through state legislatures, state attorneys common, and personal proper of motion.
  • FAA oversight of plane producers. The Boeing 737 MAX disaster highlighted weaknesses within the FAA’s oversight of plane producers. Specifically, the FAA Inspector Designee program needs to be reformed in order that further FAA oversight is supplied over plane producer workers who’re tasked with serving the possibly conflicting position as FAA inspectors and certifiers.
  • Upkeep Outsourcing. The administration ought to require that airline upkeep work be carried out in the US, and the FAA ought to present sufficient surveillance of such upkeep work.



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