Travel Fairness Now, the Business Travel Coalition and the National Consumers League applauded an executive order signed by President Biden today to promote open and fair competition and increase consumer protection across several industries, including the highly concentrated U.S. airline industry.
“For too long, consumers have been paying the price for an airline industry that is more concentrated and less competitive than at any time since the industry was deregulated,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Travel Fairness Now. “The actions in today’s executive order will help curb the growing practice of airline profit through blocking consumer access to competitive flight and fare options, pricing chicanery and surprise fees, which is spreading to other parts of the travel industry.”
“The lack of competition in the industry has resulted in business and leisure travelers paying more, getting less and facing travel and service problems never seen,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman and founder of the Business Travel Coalition “After years of the powerful airline industry getting everything it wants at the expense of consumers, the actions by the administration and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are a long-awaited breath of fresh air for the flying public.”
“Action by the Department of Transportation on many of the consumer protection rulemakings that Congress required in prior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bills is long overdue,” said John Breyault, vice president of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud with the National Consumers League. “The DOT must ensure that at the end of the day, consumers benefit from these new rules and resist efforts by the bailed-out airline industry to water them down.”
The Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy includes 72 specific actions to counter the consumer impact of decades of corporate consolidation across many industries. According to an accompanying White House fact sheet, 75% of U.S. industries have a smaller number of companies competing today than they did 20 years ago, and the lack of competition is causing prices consumers pay to increase.
In commercial airline travel, the Executive Order directs DOT to either issue or consider rulemakings, or take other action on:
- Prompt refunds of checked bag fees when baggage is significantly delayed and prompt refunds of fees for services when airlines fail to provide them, such as seat assignments, in-flight Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment
- Addressing the failure of airlines to provide timely ticket refunds for flights, which airlines are required to do when they cancel a flight
- Providing travelers with information on any baggage, change or cancellation fees they could incur, before they buy a ticket
- Enhancing consumer access to flight information so that consumers can more easily find a broader set of available flight options
- Amending the DOT’s 2020 rulemaking on unfair and deceptive practices, which was opposed by consumer groups and the vast majority of parties that commented on it when it was considered
- Ensuring the ability of new airlines to gain access to markets
- Appointing an experienced consumer representative to the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee
Other actions to improve competition are included as well. The entire executive order can be found here.
About the Business Travel Coalition
Founded in 1994, the mission of Business Travel Coalition is to interpret industry and government policies and practices and provide a platform so that the managed travel community can influence issues of strategic importance to their organizations.
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.