The Wall Street Journal reports that Airlines for America, the lobbying organization for airlines, has asked the Department of Transportation to end some popular airline rules.
Donald Trump is all about cutting regulations, which is why his DOT asked the airlines what to cut. Any business owner will tell you that regulations are a pain in the ass. But we are all consumers, as well, and regulators created these rules to help us. Since a lot of my readers are frequent travelers, how about if you decide. Here’s a list of the regulations that the Journal reports the airline industry would like to get rid of. Which ones would you scrap?
- Tarmac delay rule: airlines pay a fine if they strand you on the tarmac for more than three hours. Airlines must provide adequate food and water if passengers are delayed on tarmac more than two hours, and must maintain operable lavatories.
- When you’re shopping for tickets, airlines must show the full price of a ticket, including fees like a “fuel” fee and taxes.
- If you buy a ticket, you have 24 hours to cancel it without a penalty or change fee. For example, this applies if you click on the wrong date by mistake.
- If an airline quotes you a very low fare because of a technical error, (a “mistake fare”), they must honor it.
- Airlines must provide “prompt” wheelchair service to people who need it, for free.
- Online booking systems must show historical on-time and cancellation history for those flights.
- Airlines can’t pay to have their flights appear more prominently or above others in booking systems.
- Airlines can’t bump passengers off flights to make room for passengers willing to pay more.
- If you get bumped off a flight because the airline overbooked, they must compensate you.
- Airlines must seat families together.
- Airlines must refund your bag fees if they lose or delay your luggage.
Cutting the wrong rules?
After you’ve chosen which of these rules to retain and which the industry can get rid of, I’d like to suggest some other changes that, so far as I know, the industry organization has not requested.
- Flight attendants are no longer required to explain how seat-belts work, what to do in the unlikely event of a water landing, or that there are infant life rafts.
- Passengers seated within six feet of babies receive free noise cancelling headphones.
- All seats on the left side of a flight will recline; all those on the right side of the flight will not. Passengers can choose which side they want based on their preference.
- People over six feet tall receive preference for seating in exit rows.
- First class and business class passengers board last (but no one else is allowed to use their bin space), since they will have the most comfortable flight.
- Airlines must rename frequent-flyer categories that rarely deliver actual privileges. For example, American Airlines Gold will be renamed Zinc and OneWorld Emerald will be renamed Rhinestone.
- Anyone traveling with an emotional-support animal must buy a seat for the animal and travel in the last five rows of coach.
- Flight attendants can wear blue jeans, so long as they are not torn or stained.
- All middle seat customers are, by regulation, entitled to both armrests.
- Wi-Fi “service” that does not consistently deliver at least 10 Mbit/second during the flight is free.
- Flight attendants must be supplied with Febreze and instructed to use it on lavatories and passengers that stink.
- Reservation systems must show seats mounted less than 30 inches from the seat ahead of them in flashing red with a warning on reservation systems.
- At security, no one must take off their shoes or jackets and liquids, gels, and aerosols are now permitted in any quantity. Free the toothpaste.
- All airline entertainment systems must offer “Airport,” “Airplane,” and “Snakes on a Plane” as possible movie choices.
Why regulations exist
In theory, airlines could compete on customer experience. The free market philosophy says that if you allow competition to take place, some suppliers will differentiate on price, and others on quality.
This has happened in only a limited way in the airline industry. I, for one, am glad there are regulations regarding safety inspections, for example — I don’t want to choose an airline based on whether it’s safe. And because there are so few airlines competing on these routes, there’s a race to the bottom on price, quality, legroom, and so on. So I want regulations that keep that “bottom” from going any lower. I don’t want seat pitch to get any tighter, nor do I want to sit on the tarmac for ten hours or get bumped at the last minute because somebody paid more.
Where to draw the line is a difficult challenge. It’s fine to argue about it. But I’m glad there is a line to draw.
(Please add any regulations you think belong in my list.)