Consumer Protection Office, Federal Department Of Transportation, Sarah Beth discussed on What Next | Daily News and Analysis


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Politics is a podcast for real conversations. That help us understand politics democracy and the news while still treating each other like thoughtful human beings hosts. Sarah beth are both kentucky moms and lawyers who smart meet spiritual political analysis blends hard facts with important social cultural undercurrents. So you don't miss the big picture. Join the conversation. By following pantsuit politics. Wherever you listen when the airlines do jerk us around a recourse is limited and that is the fault of deregulation because deregulation exempted the airlines from state level oversight so if an airline is bilking you out of a refund. You can't go to your state attorney general and expect help from the consumer protection office. The only sheriff in town is the federal department of transportation and that agency has not distinguished itself. The department transportation not been effective at all. We basically had to transportation secretaries on the second one under obama and then the only one under trump who did very little or consumer advocates would say they did nothing for protecting consumer rights in air travel You know it is. The is the only sheriff The the industry was given an exemption by congress from any sort of state regulation or oversight Dot is the only body that That that governs this So so one example of frontier airlines changed its refund policy in the pandemic and there are a huge number of of complaints and then the attorney general of the state of colorado where frontiers based Said we have never gotten more complaints about a single company than we did about frontier and there wasn't a thing we could do about it because airlines have this exemption from the federal government. I want to talk about some of the things that could make flying better. I'm going to start with the lowest hanging fruit. I can think of. Which is maybe the planes should stop serving booze. Is that that. Much of a moneymaker maker for them. Could they stop serving alcohol on the planes. I don't think it's much of a moneymaker at all when you factor in the cost of injuries disruptions You know if airplane asked to divert to an airport unexpectedly because a passenger has to be arrested that can be a ten thousand dollar event And know the passengers not paying for it. The airline is So we've seen a couple of airlines that through the pandemic or not serving alcohol American and south in particular And i think that you know that may stick. We've also seen sort of college. Campus tight behavior Where people realize that the airlines not going to serve alcohol so they get plastered before they get on the airplane. So alcohol's clearly a problem. I'm not sure the airline alone can legislate the problem here. About ten years ago there were a lot of complaints about how planes would leave passengers stranded on the tarmac for our big kept hearing. They'd be departing shortly but these passengers ended up stranded on a dark plane for nearly five hours. No food no air conditioning nightmare flight passengers are stuck on airport tarmac for hours. Now the government is limiting. It was a bunch of high profile cases of this and it prompted congress to pass the air passengers bill of rights which was enacted in twenty eleven You'd think that's due for an update right. Yeah very much. So and by the way tarmac delays is a great example of the sheriff. Actually doing his or her job Ray hood was the secretary of transportation. was a republican in the obama administration and he just got really pissed off. That people were getting stranded for ten hours at a time sitting on an airplane with no services. Now you know because of airline screw ups and so he said no more and they put through a rule with really heavy penalties If airlines did that and lo and behold airlines figured out a way to fix the problem and that's typically you know what happens. It didn't then raise ticket. Prices at didn't disrupt traveled in. You know wasn't the end of the world. They just figured out a better way to manage it so that that has happened. I do think there you know there are some key areas Some of which we talked about where it is time for More passenger rights I think the the consumer has really been left behind here and there are some simple things that that government could do without imposing a whole lot of new regulation but Do some things to to level the playing field. What are some things. I can do if i decide that like improving. Air travel is my number one priority. What are some things. I could do to make the world a better place. I do think there's value in filing complaints with the department of transportation It's it's a fairly easy thing to do. You can do it from their website. They'll take complaints over the phone. However whatever's is your preferred communications method in a couple of things happen. The the dot does forward complaints to a particular air to the airline involved and it does ask for response so complaints that go to the dot in theory. Do get more attention and we certainly seen some airlines be more responsive and You know it's helpful for journalists and others to to track which airlines are doing well and provide some some peer pressure. I do an annual scorecard of airline performance And that's that's one of the factors we look at So i think that that can have a benefit. I also think social media is is a powerful tool for airline passengers Certainly seen this with with videos of late and things like that but Airlines you know can be more responsive on social media. They do have social media desks And it can be a good way to get a response from an airline When you know reading a letter making a phone call gets you nowhere. Scott mccartney thank you so much for talking. Sure good to be with you. Mary scott mccartney is reporter for the wall street journal where he writes the middle seat column. And that's the show. What next is produced by the best in the business. Elena schwartz davis land daniel hewitt and carmel shad alison benedict and unleash montgomery rarely tape us to our chairs and when they do we deserve it. I'm mary wilson filling in for mary harris. Thanks for listening..

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