Airline Passenger Rights: The Federal Role in Aviation Consumer Protection [July 21, 2015]   [open pdf - 346KB]

"The 1978 deregulation of the airline industry in the United States eliminated federal control over many airline business practices, including pricing and domestic route selection. However, the federal government continues to legislate and enforce certain consumer protections for airline passengers. Congress largely determines the degree to which the rights of airline passengers are codified in law or developed through regulatory rulemaking. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation are the primary congressional committees of jurisdiction over airline passenger rights. Congress can authorize or require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to enact rules on certain issues, and it can enact requirements for airlines through direct legislation. In specific cases, DOT may take enforcement actions against air carriers that violate consumer protection rules. […] The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95), signed into law by the President on February 14, 2012, included a number of provisions regarding the rights of airline passengers and created a firmer statutory basis for the rules adopted by DOT in 2009 and 2011. Nonetheless, a number of consumer-related subjects, including disclosure of code sharing arrangements on domestic flights, compensation of passengers 'bumped' from oversold flights, and disclosure of ancillary fees, remain controversial. There were efforts in the 113th Congress to overturn a DOT policy requiring that airline and travel websites give most prominent display to the total cost of a flight, including taxes and fees. Such action would have allowed airlines to advertise base airfares, even though consumers would not be able to purchase transportation at that price."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43078
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