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Published: May 2020

DOT’s proposed rules favor airlines over passengers

Consumer groups called the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposal to modify how it protects passengers from unfair and deceptive acts and practices in the air travel marketplace "fatally flawed” and urged the agency to abandon its rulemaking. Consumer advocates argue that the proposed rules, formulated at the behest of the airline lobby, would not benefit consumers. If adopted, they would give airlines even greater incentives to engage in the kinds of anti-passenger practices—like leaving passengers stuck on the tarmac for hours on end—that Congress intended the DOT to prevent.

The fact that airlines are facing severe economic headwinds due to COVID-19 is not an excuse for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to cave to industry pressure and abandon its critical consumer protection role in the air travel marketplace. The DOT’s enforcement activity is at the lowest level in a decade. Last year, the DOT initiated the fewest number of enforcement actions (9) and the second-lowest amount of civil penalties ($2.2 million) since 2010. Compare this to the $1.4 billion in baggage fees that the eleven biggest U.S. airlines collected in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone. The groups’ comments questioned how such metrics could square with the airline industry’s portrayal of the DOT as a consumer protection agency run amok.

Other Organizations

National Consumers League | Consumer Action

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