Dear Members of Congress,
For more than a decade, consumer advocacy organizations like Travel Fairness Now have witnessed the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) carry out the airline industry’s agenda while neglecting its own mission to protect American consumers and promote competition.
A recent news report vividly demonstrates the incredibly close and inappropriate relationships between the regulator and the regulated at DOT. As reported, at the request of the powerful airline industry, acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Dan Elwell has been doing the airlines’ bidding by quietly working against consumer protection regulations that have nothing to do with the safety agency he leads.
Consumers are relegated to the sidelines in this privileged process. While other stories around airline safety dominate the news, Americans’ belief that they could at least trust the FAA to fulfill its mission to ensure that the aircraft we fly on are safe has been called into question.
In fact, it is difficult to find a case in which the DOT met an airline industry proposal it didn’t like. And it is even more difficult to find a recent case in which the DOT met a consumer proposal it actually did like, much less acted upon.
Today, the U.S. taxpayer-funded DOT is not serving taxpayers. Instead, it prioritizes serving the interests of the largest U.S. airlines over consumers. In recent years, DOT has allowed unprecedented industry consolidation. That consolidation has caused a steep decline in competition, created market power that airlines wield to impose massive increases in the number and cost of fees, and block lower-priced competitors. It has also resulted in increasingly aggressive airline efforts to interfere with innovations that leverage the power of technology to promote easy access to information, side-by-side comparison shopping and greater transparency in airfare pricing.
The need for a top-to-bottom investigation into whether the DOT is fulfilling its legal obligations to the flying public has never been more urgent or compelling. Competitive, open and healthy markets, and fast and easy comparison-shopping, are critical to letting market forces work, as well as making travel affordable and accessible to the families, communities and businesses across the country that depend on it.
On behalf of the 70,000 members of Travel Fairness Now across the country, I’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you further on this important topic.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Travel Fairness Now