Report: Senator Collins Looking to Revive DOT Rulemaking on Airline Fees

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the most senior Republican woman on the Senate and the chair of the Senate’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, is reportedly looking to revive the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rulemaking on airline fees, according to advocacy organization Air Travel Fairness Coalition.

Writing in the Sun-Sentinel, Air Travel Fairness Coalition Executive Director Kurt Ebenhoch writes that Collins has developed legislation that compels the DOT to resume its review of airline fares and ticketing. The Air Travel Fairness Coalition is an advocacy group that represents travel search companies and works with consumer and trade advocacy organizations like Travelers United, the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and TravelTech.

The DOT’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on airline fees, which was first issued in 2011 during the Obama administration, would have collected detailed revenue information on airline ancillary fees, such as those for checked baggage. A second, supplemental NPRM issued in January of 2017 would have required the disclosure of such fees at all points of sale, including by travel agents. The DOT withdrew both NPRM last December, citing an executive order by President Donald Trump aimed at reducing government regulations.

When it was announced the decision drew criticism from travel industry organizations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).

“We are disappointed with the DOT’s decision,” said ASTA’s Eben Peck, executive vice president, advocacy, in a statement provided to Travel Agent at the time. “While a far cry from the full transparency in and consumer access to airline ancillary fees ASTA has been pushing for since 2011, the Department’s January 2017 proposal requiring that consumers be notified of airline bag fees at all points of sale – including through travel agents – was a step in the right direction.”

Peck said that ASTA believes strongly that withholding important airline information from consumers who use travel agents harms the traveling public, and that those who do should be as informed as those who buy directly from airlines.

“Re-starting the RFI will bring essential facts into the light of day and help all parties develop policies that work for travelers across Maine and the U.S.,” Ebenhoch wrote.

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