Department Of Transportation Addresses Minor Issues

Yesterday, the Department Of Transportation (DOT) put out a press release heralding their latest accomplishments in the name of consumers. It wasn’t much, of course. It rarely is. But what caught my eye was how easily the airlines could have addressed many of the issues they “fixed” without involving the government.

What Was It?

There were three main issues that the DOT adjusted. Among them:

  • Increased monthly reporting requirements for airlines to include smaller carriers
  • Addressing certain issues related to baggage
  • Noting conflicts of interest on internet pricing

Why Was It A Problem?

Here’s what bothers me: The airlines have the right to run their businesses as they see fit. I’m the first one to defend them when they announce a new fee or cut back seat pitch. I don’t like it, but they are publicly traded companies with owners (shareholders). Their fiduciary duty is to maximize profits.

But part of maximizing profits is knowing when to quit, and they’re just not very good at that. There were two items in the release, in particular, that caught my attention.

First, the new regulations require them to report data for their regional carriers. Airlines actually outsource a lot of their flying to smaller carriers, such as SkyWest and Republic Airlines. You may not even know that you are flying on a regional partner, since the livery of the plane will be the same. Now, the statistics for those flights, such as on-time performance and lost bags, will be included with the overall carrier. But why did they need to do that? It’s not your job to know whether your flight is on an American jet or one owned by Republic. The data should have already been in there.

Second, airlines are now required to refund your baggage fee if your luggage is “substantially delayed.” They don’t define what “substantially delayed” means, but should it matter? The reason that you pay them a fee is to get your luggage to where you’re going. If they can’t do that on-time, what are you paying for? The audacity to charge for the service, even when you haven’t fulfilled it properly, is amazing.

Sometimes, it feels like the airlines are asking to be re-regulated.

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