DALLAS — Consumer advocacy groups are raising concerns about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision not to pursue regulations that could have increased transparency of airline baggage fees and other add-on charges.
The federal agency last week announced that it was withdrawing two notices of proposed rulemaking that were investigating possible regulations requiring airlines to disclose bag fees earlier in the booking process and provide more detailed reporting about the fees they collect.
While the rulemaking processes wouldn’t have necessarily resulted in regulations, consumer advocacy groups said the Department of Transportation’s action is the latest in a string of decisions that have leaned in airlines’ favor. It’s also another sign of a light-touch regulatory approach that has marked President Donald Trump’s first year in office.
“What they’re doing now is stepping back from that kind of [consumer] protection,” said Charlie Leocha, president of Travelers United, one of several groups that have criticized the decision. “It’s like the police department deciding they’re not going to investigate a crime.”
Leocha said the decision is especially worrisome because it cut short processes to study the new rules, one of which had been taking place for more than five years, before a conclusion could be reached one way or the other.
It also comes as the Transportation Department has delayed, suspended or not acted on other consumer-centric efforts.
That includes a March decision giving airlines an extra year to comply with new reporting requirements meant to more accurately capture how many bags are lost or mishandled. Those requirements were set to take effect Jan. 1.
The Transportation Department has also not put in place rules allowing families with children younger than 13 to book seats next to each other without paying additional fees, despite Congress approving the change over a year ago.
For its part, the airline industry cheered the decision, with trade group Airlines for America commending the Transportation Department for ushering in “a new era of smarter regulation.”
“Airlines, like all other businesses, need the freedom to determine which third-parties they do business with, how best to market, display and sell their products,” spokesman Todd Burke said in a statement.
Print Headline: Critics pan idled airline-fee rules