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Currency

Why the Trump administration has enraged flyers across America

FOR a president elected on a populist campaign message, Donald Trump is not doing much to make himself popular with flyers in America. On December 7th, the Trump administration announced that it was withdrawing a regulation proposed under Barack Obama to require airlines and other plane-ticket sellers to disclose baggage fees when customers begin the process of buying tickets. Airlines already have to display checked baggage fees on their websites. But the Obama administration’s proposal would have forced them to do so up front in the shopping process, so that travellers could compare the fees for various airlines and routes when choosing their itineraries. Mr Trump is also scrapping another Obama-era proposal to require airlines to report to regulators how much money they make from add-ons such as paid carry-on bags and seat selection.

The Trump administration has made a mission of cutting regulations and ones concerning aviation are no exception. The White House said in its announcement that the rules being scrapped had “limited public benefit.” In a statement, Elaine Chao, Mr Trump’s Transportation Secretary, said:

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The department is committed to protecting consumers from hidden fees and to ensuring transparency. However, we do not believe that departmental action is necessary to meet this objective at this time.

But lobbyists for consumer rights beg to differ. Charles Leocha, the founder of Travelers United, an advocacy group, called the move a “dereliction of duty” and complained that “without clear, public data available to travel agents and on the Internet, travellers find it impossible to effectively comparison shop.” At a news conference on Sunday, Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said, “Donald Trump campaigned that he was on the side of the average guy. Then why does his administration keep letting the big boys win?” In Europe, since a court ruling in 2015, all airlines have had to display the cost of any extra charges—compulsory or not—prominently before bookings are made. This forms part of the European Union’s regulatory structure for aviation which has resulted in more fierce competition between airlines—resulting in lower fares and better service for consumers.

It is not the first time that the administration has drawn criticism from flyers in its efforts to trim regulations. Weeks after Mr Trump took office, under pressure from lobbyists for the airline industry, the administration delayed a rule that would have required airlines to report how many passengers’ wheelchairs and scooters they break or mishandle—a surprisingly common occurrence. This would have allowed disabled passengers to compare the quality of service airlines provide before booking their flights. The rule was set to go into effect on New Year’s Day but this has now been delayed, resulting in a lawsuit against the administration from a disability-rights outfit.

The move to scrap the baggage fee disclosure rule will not just affect domestic American flyers. Last week Delta Air Lines, America’s third-biggest carrier, announced that it will start imposing fees for checked bags on international flights as well. From April 10th next year, flyers from North America to Europe or Africa travelling on basic-economy tickets will need to pay $60 for the first checked bag and $100 for the second. Of course, without the rule to disclose baggage fees, they might not realise that when shopping around for flights.

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Source: economist
Why the Trump administration has enraged flyers across America

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