Fine print in FAA bill sets advocates against lobbyists, but passengers could lose

Air travelers are about to get their best shot in four years at fixing everything that’s wrong with flying — or they would if they’d been invited to the party.

Sometime next week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to consider the FAA reauthorization bill, which funds the Federal Aviation Administration, among other things. At a markup session, where changes to the law are considered, various special interests will push to include their amendments.

The bill, introduced Wednesday, spends the bulk of its 273 pages dealing with air traffic control reform issues. It also proposes rules regarding kids and seat assignments, prohibitions on voice communications, and refunds on checked baggage that’s delayed.

For example, the Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech) — a trade group for online travel agencies, reservations systems and short-term rental companies — is lobbying for a congressional commission to study the state of air competition. It contends that the recent airline mergers, which have left us with only four large domestic carriers, are bad for the marketplace.

They’re also fighting airline industry efforts to include provisions such as the Transparent Airfares Act, a law that would allow airlines to quote a base fare minus taxes and fees, which would leave passengers with the impression that their tickets are cheaper than they are. This initial deception — quoting an unbookable low fare — could prove costly to consumers and online agencies, they say.

“It would be a bad sign if language that decreases the ability for consumers to comparison shop, such as the Transparent Airfares Act, made it into the package instead of initiatives that promote airline competition and consumer choice,” says Philip Minardi, a spokesman for Travel Tech.

Meanwhile, airlines are preoccupied with the prospect of modernizing air traffic control, which is also on the agenda. Airlines for America (A4A), which represents the major domestic airlines, says it favors air traffic control reform, but not privatization.

A4A’s biggest priority is persuading Congress to take action to preserve the FAA’s safety oversight of air traffic control “while moving the operation and funding of air traffic control to a federally chartered, nonprofit organization that would be governed and funded by the stakeholders and users of our nation’s aviation system,” says Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for A4A.

There’s some coordination between passenger advocates and their legislators. A group of congressional representatives, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), plans to slip the Families Flying Together Act of 2015 into the bill. The language would direct the Department of Transportation to establish a policy that a family that purchases tickets for a flight be seated together during that flight.

The Family Travel Association, a trade group, is throwing its weight behind the amendment, saying it would make traveling with children easier. “As an industry, we don’t want to discourage parents from flying with their kids,” says Rainer Jenss, the association’s president. “And if a family can’t even sit together on a flight, they may decide not to travel at all.”

The bill is important because it represents the best opportunity to upgrade the flying experience since the passage of the last FAA funding bill in 2012. Travelers aren’t shy about sharing their wishes.

“More legroom,” says Joan De Palma, a retired social worker who lives in New York. “Also, more lenient cancellation or change-of-date policies. It shouldn’t cost $200 per ticket.”

That sounds simple, but it isn’t. A hard rule mandating minimum seat standards is unlikely to fly through the Republican-controlled committee. But a group of consumer advocates, including and Travelers United, is openly supporting minimum seat-room standards on aircraft. It will be asking Congress to study the issue, including the safety implications of shrinking the seat sizes. and the National Consumers League have also been lobbying for caps on airline change fees. But so far, they’ve found no legislative traction.

“Drop the silly baggage fees,” says Sandy Hoboy, a teacher from Phoenix.

Again, that’s a complicated thing. Passengers such as Hoboy are not just upset that airlines are charging for luggage but that they also have unbundled the baggage fees from their fares. That allows them to quote a lower total price than travelers would actually pay once baggage fees are added to the total. These extra fees are often poorly disclosed when you book online — some customers even allege that they are intentionally hidden — so a passenger may not know how much more it will cost to bring a bag.

Consumer advocates and online agents are pushing for regulations that would require airlines to more prominently disclose fees that typically are booked along with a ticket, such as a baggage fee and a seat assignment. There has even been some debate about the Department of Transportation formalizing a definition of a ticket to include these common items, but the current committee is unlikely to get involved.

How about regulating loyalty programs? That’s what frequent air travelers such as Ricky McIntosh, who runs an educational website in Longwood, Fla., want. “In the past, 20,000 miles would get you a one-way ticket anywhere in the United States, except for Alaska and Hawaii,” he says. “Now, it’s 40,000 miles.”

So far, efforts to regulate loyalty programs at the federal level have failed, and for now, this issue appears not to be on any advocacy group’s agenda. Which is too bad. Air travelers are being deceived by these programs every day, with apparent permission from the government. Airlines can, and almost certainly will, continue to devalue their programs as long as they are allowed to, observers say.

When all else fails, you can always ask for a blanket fix — or, as Betty Wilkinson, a consultant from Atlanta, puts it, “minimum service standards.” Part of her wish has already come true. All of the major airlines have restored snacks to their flights, even in economy class. But there’s no magic wand that can be waved to fix one of the most complained-about industries in America.

Rather, a series of smaller amendments and rule changes that include mandating clearer fee disclosure, scrutinizing code-share agreements and future mergers, and ensuring minimum safety and comfort standards for passengers will probably add up to a better passenger experience.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend