National Consumers League

National Consumers League statement on Senate passage of FAA Reauthorization Bill

April 19, 2016

Contact: NCL Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC - The U.S. Senate today approved the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016 on a 95-3 vote. Unfortunately, despite support from every major national consumers and travellers rights groups as well as business travel managers, the Senate failed to even vote on the FAIR Fees Act, which was offered as an amendment and received bipartisan support in committee. This bill, co-sponsored by Senators Markey and Blumenthal proposed common-sense, pro-consumer reforms that would have prohibited air carriers from imposing ancillary fees that were unreasonable or disproportional to the costs incurred by the airlines. Such action would address competition concerns raised by the Department of Justice, Department of Justice, travelers’ rights advocates and consumers nationwide. 

While the bill is not perfect, we recognize and applaud the fact that it does contain a number of important new consumer protections which address the out-of-control growth of ancillary fees that are increasingly squeezing the pocketbooks of the traveling public. In particular, consumers will benefit from provisions requiring automatic refunds on baggage fees when luggage arrives late, automatic refunds of ancillary fees when services are purchased and not delivered, better disclosure of ancillary fees, an investigation of the Department of Transportation (DOT’s) consumer protection enforcement efforts and improvements to the Department of Transportation’s complaint process, among other provisions. In addition, NCL is pleased with the absence of air traffic control privatization in bill, which reflects the broadly held consensus that such action would significantly harm the FAA’s ability to ensure the safety of the air travel system for the millions of consumers who depend it.

The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League:

“Complaints to the Department of Transportation about the price of flying were the fastest-growing type of complaint to the agency last year.  Consumers are demanding real reforms that address the explosion of airline fees, yet the Senate failed to even vote on the FAIR Fees Act. While we recognize that important new consumer protections were included in the FAA reauthorization bill, we are deeply disappointed that the full Senate did not take up Senators Markey, Blumenthal, and Klobuchar’s common-sense consumer protection amendment. Thanks to consolidation, the biggest U.S. airlines are increasingly able to reduce capacity and raise fees, free from a credible competitive threat. This is a textbook case of oligopolistic behavior that Congress, the DOT and the DOJ must recognize and act upon.”

The National Consumers League will continue to press for the addition of much-needed consumer protections to the FAA reauthorization legislation as it moves toward a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

###

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.