Washington Trade Groups Want Their Piece of Pie in the Sky
No one would claim that any of the new travel-related laws scheduled to take effect in 2010 are game-changers for travelers. They're relatively minor: a new credit card rule here, a new airport security policy there.
But what kind of law would really improve your travel experience next year?
Instead of asking readers for their opinions, as I do every week, I decided to hand the mike to the trade organizations in
The short answer? Most trade groups want laws authorizing
An overwhelming majority of the organizations I spoke with said that reauthorizing the
"For the sake of the traveling public, the bill should include a new funding commitment for a next-generation air traffic control system and new protections for passengers who are subjected to lengthy flight delays," said
Speaking of airlines, I wondered what my friends at the
"Legislation designating airspace modernization as a national priority and full funding to ensure an accelerated, focused implementation," he said in an e-mail.
Curiously, no mention of the so-called "passenger rights" provisions in the current bill.
I got more or less the same answer from the
Ditto for the
If I didn't know better, I'd say that all these trade groups are working toward the same goal. Even the ones that represent travelers.
"Transportation investments will create jobs, provide a foundation for future economic growth, improve safety and meet personal mobility needs," she said.
But next-gen isn't at the top of the organization's legislative to-do list. "That would be a truth-in-advertising law," said
Only one other group, the
I'm a little disappointed by many of those answers. The conventional wisdom seems to be that spending more money on infrastructure is the single best way to improve travel.
It's important for trade organizations to make a connection with the everyday traveler. A "what's-good-for-our-members-is-good-for-travelers" argument is highly effective when pushing
In fact, most Americans travel to their vacation or business destinations by car. And I've heard some persuasive arguments that the current air traffic delays are more the result of irresponsible scheduling by the airlines than the byproduct of an antiquated air traffic control system. Shouldn't there be a law governing that, too?
I had hoped to hear some of these trade groups propose a tough consumer protection law for air travelers. Or perhaps a law that would ban car rental companies and hotels from imposing surprise fees, such as "mandatory" insurance or so-called "resort fees."
The travel industry seems to have its head in the sky when it comes to its legislative agenda, by which I mean that it's thinking about planes and airports. Not a bad place to be -- as long as you're an air traveler. The rest of us will have to fend for ourselves.
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(c) 2009 Christopher Elliott
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