Ray LaHood: “We’re in the era of full disclosure”

In part two of their interview with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Christopher Elliott and Charlie Leocha explore the new tarmac-delay restrictions for airlines and pending rules for the disclosure of surcharges, such as baggage fees, that have spread through the airline industry. Here’s the first part.

The number of enforcement actions are up at the department’s Aviation Enforcement Office. Did you go down there and light a fire under them?

I think that people in the department understood when I came on board that safety was number one and we were going to look out for consumers. People knew I was a member of Congress and that I was co-sponsor of the Passenger Bill of Rights. Once we put out the tarmac rule, that sent a message out all over these two buildings and all over the FAA buildings who we care about.

I would like to congratulate you on your rulemaking concerning tarmac delays. I have seen where the airlines have been whining a lot and have requested exceptions to the current rulemaking. They are huffing and puffing and threatening to cancel flights. They can’t have it both ways. For years, it was a minor problem and now it will cause a collapse of the industry.

I can make an argument that our tarmac rules are about safety. How safe can it be for a passenger to sit inside of an airplane inside of that steel tube without access to a bathroom, without access to food, without access to water? To me that’s as much of a safety issues and a health issue. It’s a health/safety issue.

I’ve read that they will have to go back to the gate. Fine, you know what happens when they get back to the gate? You can rebook you flight, you can go home and rest and get on a flight the next morning or sit in the terminal and make a decision. You’re not cooped up in an airplane with out food, water and a lavatory.

I take it then that these airlines asking for exemptions at places like JFK are not going to get them.

Well, you know my philosophy on this. We’ll wait to see what happens.

What was the reaction to the tarmac rule? Did you hear back from any airlines on that?

Just what I’ve read. I’ve had a couple of CEOs in here whining to me about it. You know what I said to them? First of all, start looking out for your passengers. This is good for passengers. This will help you. This will help provide good service to your customers.

I was so struck in January. I took two of my nine grandchildren to Disney World. You know what happens at Disney World? The customer is always right. It like they treat you like you are the long-lost relative. Now, if the airline industry and other industries treated their customers that way, we wouldn’t be having these problems.

Why don’t you think they … ?

That part I don’t know.

I get the impression that the guiding principle in enforcement is that airlines are deregulated and the government will take a hands-off approach, particularly to aviation enforcement dealing with consumer protection. Does deregulation means hands off, or not?

I’ll go back to what I said originally. I think that our obligation is to make sure that when somebody gets on a plane that he gets to whre they’re going safely, that they can avoid delays. I think that on my watch, that will be my number one priority. If people want to accuse us of trying to be over-regulatory in the airline industry, it will be in the name of safety. I make no apologies for that.

What do you think passengers are concerned about besides safety that the DOT can affect?

Number one, people are concerned about is what it costs to get on a flight. Let’s face it, when you book a flight, the first thing you think about is how much is it going to cost me. If I have to carry a bag on, what’s it going to cost me? I think that’s the first thing you think about.

When I flew back to Peoria with my wife, I have to pay for our fare to go back there. I thought about what it’s going to cost me. That was the first question. How about if we take four bags with us? What are they going to cost us? That’s the second question. I mean it’s pretty common sense stuff, really.

Was it easy to find out how much your four bags were going to cost?

The truth is, I did not know that until I got up to the counter. You don’t know, really, if there is a weight problem. Sometimes you know, obviously. But if you travel with my wife you don’t know.

How do you make them tell you?

I think we have an obligation here at DOT to do that. We continue to look at those fares. That’s part of our job to do that.

Some congressional staffers have raised the point that forcing airlines to reveal fees at the same time that they reveal airfares is a return to regulation.

In Congress we are going in completely the opposite direction. Congress just passed a law saying that on your credit card now it’s full disclosure. My credit card bill now shows ten years out what it will cost you if you paid this or that. That’s the direction that we should be going for consumers when you buy an airline ticket, or that Amtrak should have when you buy a train ticket. Full disclosure. What are all the fees? What it going to cost you.

We’re in a new era. We’re in the era of full disclosure.

(Photo: merfam/Flickr Creative Commons)

Underwritten by

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 Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

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 Sodexoinsights.com.

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 Travelexinsurance.com.

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 Insuremyrentalcar.com

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 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  Mediacomcable.com.

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  Virtuoso.com.

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. Elliott.org 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 TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com 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  TravelInsurance.com.

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  Squaremouth.com 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, SinglesCruise.com, 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