Airline Passengers Get Chance to Be Heard on Proposed Regulations
If you've ever complained about air travel -- and who hasn't? -- then here's your best chance in a generation to do something about it.
Tell the government what you think of its proposed new passenger rights rules. You can do it right now, thanks to a new project called Regulation Room.
There's a lot to comment about. The rules cover everything from tarmac delays to peanuts. If adopted, they could change the way Americans fly more than any single regulation since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978.
Administrative rulemaking, for those of you who snoozed through your civics class, is the process by which agencies adopt regulations that have the force of law. In this case, it's the
It should come as no surprise that commenting on rules has always required more than a little insider knowledge of government. Few people knew about them, and even fewer took the time to offer feedback.
"Many individuals and groups with a substantial interest in a new regulation aren't aware of the process, or don't know how to exercise their rights meaningfully," said
Making it easier to have a voice in notice-and-comment rulemaking is a focus of the Obama administration's open-government directive. Its goal is to take a process that's often hidden from the general public and use such technologies as social networking sites, blogs and discussion forums to remove barriers to participation.
Regulation Room, which is funded by the
That's sure to frustrate the airline industry, which has stuffed the ballot boxes on previous rulemaking with scripted pro-industry, anti-regulation comments from employees and supporters.
This time, it won't be so easy.
The proposed passenger-rights rules have something for everyone, and everyone is sounding off. The peanut rule is without question the most controversial one, drawing more than 400 comments so far and prompting the
I don't have the room to dissect each rule, but I wanted to offer a few highlights.
The government wants to require airlines to include all mandatory fees in the advertised price of its tickets, as I reported in a previous column. It wants more airlines to adopt contingency plans for lengthy delays, to report more data on delays, and to promptly notify customers of flight delays. It wants carriers to set minimum customer service standards, to increase compensation for passengers denied boarding and to stop air carriers from raising their fares after a ticket purchase is made. It also wants to make it easier for passengers to sue airlines.
Quite a list, isn't it?
After the comment period ends, the
She's right. This is policymaking as complex as I've ever seen in travel. And the more air travelers who weigh in on these important issues, the better our chances of having rules that serve the flying public, instead of tepid compromises manufactured inside a Beltway bubble.
Regulationroom.org could tip the scales in favor of travelers, giving them a voice in the most important rulemaking for airline passengers in decades.
You have until
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