National Consumers League

DOT inaction leaves kids at risk, NCL tells Congress

September 26, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today called on the House Aviation Subcommittee to compel the Department of Transportation (DOT) to follow through on its Congressionally-mandated passenger protection rulemakings.  

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently warned that in-flight sexual assaults have increased by 66 percent and that children as young as 8 have been victims of such crimes in the air. New data uncovered by Consumer Reports found that children as young as two years old and kids who have autism or who suffer from seizures have been separated from their parents on airplanes. Airlines have pressured parents to pay expensive seat reservation fees or buy priority board passes so that they can be sure to sit with their small children. Incredibly, the DOT earlier this year decided that creating a consumer education website would be sufficient to fulfill Congress’ intent that it act to ensure that families can sit with their young children.   

 “How many children will have to be assaulted on aircraft before the DOT acts?” asked John Breyault, NCL’s vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing today. “The DOT’s inaction on this issue has put children at greater risk. Congress should demand answers from the DOT on the process it used to determine that it should do nothing substantive on this important children’s safety issue and mandate that the agency follow through on Congress’ clear intent.” 

Read Breyault’s full testimony here. 

The consumer group also highlighted the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) inaction on setting minimum seat size standards despite a looming deadline to do so. The FAA has actively. The FAA is required to issue regulations no later than October 2019, yet consumer groups have seen no indication that the agency is prepared to initiate such a rulemaking. Instead, the FAA has actively resisted judicial efforts by consumer advocates pressing it to take action on the important safety issue.  

Congress must not allow the FAA to simply adopt whatever inhumane seat size standard the airline industry favors,” said Breyault. 

Breyault also testified about the impact of a lack of action by the DOT on Congressional mandates related to fee refunds, denied boarding (“bumping”), and the availability of fare, fee, and schedule data. 

“The DOT’s actions and inactions on important rulemakings paint a picture of an agency that places consumer protection and consumer safety at the bottom of its list of priorities,” said Breyault. "It is imperative that Congress act to ensure that its mandates are not unduly delayed, or worse, ignored completely.” 

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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.