Air Travelers Let Your Voices Be Heard
The federal government is giving travelers an extra month to comment on proposed new consumer rules for airline passengers.
You now have until
Even with my God-given gift for hyperbole, it would be hard to understate the importance of this initiative for air travelers, which is why I'm writing about it again.
The earlier column drew an unusually large number of responses, the most common one being, "What's the Web address for
Easy: www.regulationroom.org .
Coming in a close second: reader concerns about the site's usability and usefulness.
"I was not able to access the site," said
Another critique is that
"It took me 15 minutes of searching and clicking before I could figure out how to leave a comment, which is why people come to the site in the first place," he said. "The process is like a scavenger hunt requiring the user to gather bits of information until the Holy Grail is reached."
He received what appeared to be a personal response from
"Technology presents opportunities and barriers to the goal of expanding effective public participation in the rulemaking process," she wrote. "We hope our project will shed some light on what works and what doesn't."
Perhaps one of the harshest criticisms was of
"This is not public participation," said A. Rani Parker, a reader from Rockville. "It is a voting poll. Very disappointing."
Farina says that the polling was intended to funnel users to the right place on the site. As for the summaries, that's how the
In the past, she explained, the federal government would receive hundreds, even thousands, of comments with "little useful information for rulemakers," she said. "With a summary, they can concentrate on the real meat of the comments: people's questions, concerns, competing arguments, suggestions."
And one more thing: The summaries will be run past users again, to ensure that nothing is missed when a synopsis is being created, according to Farina.
So where does that leave us, the traveling public? With a few weeks to go before the comments are closed, we have, on the one hand, a new and unproven site that is aggregating our opinions about a massive government rulemaking. On the other hand, we can still submit comments through the traditional rulemaking process, either by mail or by fax, in person or through the federal e-rulemaking portal at Regulations.gov. Search for docket number DOT-OST-2010-0140.
I've been mulling this question for a few months, and as much as I admire
"The aviation consumer protection rule is just the kind of high-visibility rule affecting so many travelers that makes
I still think the site is worth a visit, even if it's just to read the helpful plain-English summaries of the proposed rules. But unless you want your opinion summarized and sent to the government, I'd also recommend that you submit your comments the old-fashioned way.
You can bet the airline industry will.
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