To: The Congress of the United States
Please support the Airline Passenger Bill Of Rights 2.0 which must become a part of Federal Law to provide essential protections for airline passengers.
The FlyersRights.org proposed Airline Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0 (APBOR 2.0) updates and expands upon airline consumer protections promulgated by both Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Industry developments since deregulation have proven the need for enhanced consumer protection laws. Most of the existing statutory law regarding consumer protection is vague, outdated, and not vigorously enforced by the DOT. Imprecise statutory language forces the DOT to issue consumer protection regulations that arguably exceed the scope of the DOT’s rulemaking authority. Airlines can, and do, regularly challenge such regulations. States have limited ability to provide consumer protections due to judicial interpretations of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) of 1978 that preempt virtually all state-based regulation of airlines and airline operations.
APBOR 2.0 addresses these shortcomings by providing the DOT with explicit statutory authority to issue consumer protection regulations; redefining portions of the ADA to narrow its preemptive scope; expanding passenger causes of action in order to allow passengers to sue airlines, in state court, for failure to follow the law; and establishing more stringent statutory consumer protection laws. APBOR 2.0 contains a long list of needed consumer protections.
APBOR 2.0 is divided into six sections: standards and definitions; delay avoidance and mitigation; baggage; enforcement, remedies, and adjudication; frequent flier programs; and airport governance.
Section 1 establishes uniform standards and definitions for airfares, fees, contract terms, and aircraft seats and cabins. Uniform reporting of airfares and fees are essential if consumers are to effectively compare airfares. Absent a uniform definition, airlines are able to deceptively advertise low-cost airfare only to subject travelers to myriad baggage, ticket printing, and other fees. It has become virtually impossible to identify the true cost of air travel. Uniform definitions and mandatory fee disclosure remedy this problem. Section 1 also redefines the word “service” in the ADA in order to allow consumers to bring state common law claims against airlines for torts, breach of contract, or violation of state consumer protection laws.
Section 2 addresses excessive travel delays. Proposed reforms include mandatory minimum fines for delays in excess of 3 hours, with portions of the fine payable directly to passengers. Section 2 also requires airlines to inform passengers of their rights to compensation, provide food and lodging when passengers are stranded away from their home cities, and develop and test plans to minimize traveler delays. Importantly, section 2 also reinstates two lapsed programs that require airlines to honor tickets held by travelers stranded due either to a flight cancellation or an airline bankruptcy. The section also imposes fines on airlines for false claims of force majeure.
Section 3 eliminates the airline exemption from the Uniform Abandoned Property Law used in most states. This would require airlines to make greater efforts to contact the rightful owner of lost baggage. The section also requires airlines to offer excess value insurance at rates comparable to those charged by other common carriers.
Section 4 requires that the DOT respond to passenger complaints and fund a previously-authorized complaint hotline. Section 4 also provides for arbitration (for claims under $10,000) or state-based adjudication (for claims under $80,000) and fee-shifting in certain circumstances, thus eliminating the preferred airline defense tactic of litigating in federal court. These protections make it feasible for consumers to vindicate their rights without an undue financial burden.
Section 5 imposes reporting requirements on airlines regarding frequent flier program benefits and statistics. It also prohibits airlines from reducing or devaluing benefits absent 12 months notice to affected passengers, and it prohibits airlines from retaliating against passengers for service complaints. This final provision addresses an adverse Supreme Court ruling this term on precisely this issue in Ginsberg v. Northwest Airlines.
Section 6 increases consumer participation in airport governance and requires that the DOT and GAO jointly report to Congress regarding the current state of airport efficiency. It also requires airports to report consumer rights information and make that information freely available to the traveling public.
For more information see attached full text of APBOR 2.0 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org 800-662-1859
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