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Airlines Tell DOT: Fees Leave Us Alone

Why We Regulate

June 30, 2015

Nothing to see here, folks, said the airline industry at last week’s Advisory Committee for Consumer Protection at the Department of Transportation.  No changes needed to safeguard passengers from fees. Let’s move on.

Paul Hudson, president of Flyersrights, speaking at DOT’s Advisory Committee for Consumer Protection argued that change fees are almost entirely profit for airlines because the actual cost of changing a flight is minimal. He said passengers have no realistic alternatives to fees when trying to change a flight. “They’re clearly unreasonable,” Hudson said. “They are a penalty or fine.” 
Click image for video

Voodoo economics and tortured logic were in full swing from the airline industry in justifying their sky-high change fees. 

David Berg, of the lobbying firm, Airlines For America, lectured his captive audience on the evils of big government, especially airline regulation, stating consumers benefit from a market based industry because ‘choice’ and ‘competition’ drive lower prices, and regulation drives none of those things. 

He repeated the airline mantra that it’s not price gouging , it’s responding to supply and demand in a very clear and transparent fashion. 

The airlines’ control of today’s DOT was noticeable when Jonathon Dols, Deputy Assistant General Counsel at DOT mimicked the airline lobbyist, saying  that fees benefit the consumer and allows for lower fares.

One thing we’ve learned in the years since junk fees came into place, is that they have remarkable staying power. No matter how many passenger complaints come in, no matter how often they are exposed as price-gouging and a pure profit ripoff, the bad ideas just keep coming back. And they retain the power to warp policy. 
Charlie Leocha, director, Consumer Travel Alliance at the DOT Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protections, June 28. Click image for his testimony.

The airline industry is fond of giving big speeches about how they know what they’re doing, and don’t need the government looking over their shoulders – except, of course, when they need a bailout.

Fees Are A Cash Cow 

John Breyault, vice president of the National Consumers League, walked through the steps in buying a ticket from United Airlines that sent the customer to different Web pages with 21 pages of small type and a range of fees from zero to $1,000.

“They seem to be needlessly difficult,” Breyault said.

Where Government Excels 

Video clip of travel consumer advocate, Ed Perkins.

The airline industry wants you to believe that while the goals of public programs on consumer protections may be laudable, experience shows that such programs are doomed to failure.

Don’t believe them. Yes, sometimes government officials get things wrong. 

But we’re actually surrounded by examples of government success, which they don’t want you to notice.

Their attacks on FlyersRights and other advocates of “demonizing” business are meant to block credible consumer protections. 

In the real world of government bureaucracy, the DOT Advisory Committee is a shining example of a system that works.  

It’s an advisory body to the DOT formed in 2012 to “evaluate “aviation consumer protection programs and make recommendations for new programs”. 

The panel will submit its recommendations from this meeting to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx by September 15.

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Kendall Creighton:
Twitter: @KendallFlyers

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