Senate vote paves way for rollback of TSA Security Tax

Joint consumer and airline industry efforts mean $60 million in tax savings for consumers.

Travelers United, the leading consumer advocacy group for travelers, applauds the Senate passage of legislation to protect consumers from the continuing increases of government taxes and fees — in this case rolling back a portion of the 9/11 Security Tax imposed to fund the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Charlie Leocha, Chairman and co-founder of Travelers United (formerly Consumer Travel Alliance) stated, “This Senate vote, together with the unanimous House vote, will save travelers an estimated $60 million in new taxes on airline travel.”

“More importantly,” he noted, “this effort is an example of how committed and disciplined consumer groups can work together with the airline association to foster win-win solutions to ever-increasing taxes and fees on travel.”

Travelers United and Airlines for America have worked steadfastly together through this entire legislative and regulatory process communicating with Senate and House budget negotiators, corresponding with the TSA Administrator and working with committee staff in Congress.

The 9/11 Security Tax was simplified as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 2013. A flat $5.60 fee per one-way trip was implemented, rather than the segment-based process that had been in effect prior

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    Travel industry craves customer data, while airlines restrict theirs

Travel industry craves customer data, while airlines restrict theirs

Center Stage at the PhoCusWright Conference in Los Angeles brought speakers ranging from the CEOs of China’s two largest online travel agencies to Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO at Expedia, from metasearch leaders at Kayak, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and Travelzoo to the head of IPB’s Watson Group and Darren Huston, CEO of The Priceline Group and It was an amazing collection of the top leaders in the online travel field.

The theme of the conference was Disruption’s Curve. With these major online players speaking, there was a lot of business as usual rather than disruption; however, every speaker managed to take a look at disruptive factors that they have been facing.

The disruption of Big Data dominated the first day of the conference when innovators presented a series of new emerging companies and divisions of established companies focused on harvesting Big Data from Website actions of travelers. Even in the major established mega company category, IBM, presenting on the final day of the conference, highlighted the activities of its disruptive Watson Group.

Watson, for those who don’t remember, is the computer that challenged and defeated America’s top Jeopardy players on the TV gameshow. That TV-gameshow publicity thrust the power of IBM’s computing to the

5 “good” and “bad” effects of airline mergers

Bill McGee, presenting at the DOT Advisory Committee for Consumer Protections (ACACP) meeting, noted the good and bad of airline consolidation. The hearings focused on the use of cell phones for voice calls in the air, the impact of government-imposed taxes and fees and the effects of consolidation on consumer travelers. McGee was invited to speak at the hearing as the representative of Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.

Granted, the question about the impact of airline consolidation on the aviation system is far more complex than even I acknowledged previous to hearing from the stream of economists and aviation experts. However, McGee’s summation of the good and bad of consolidation hits home for most consumers.

The ACACP meeting was held on the 6th anniversary of the merger of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines back in 2008. Since then, United Airlines and Continental Airlines have merged, Southwest Airlines merged with Airtran and American Airlines merged with US Airways. Today, according to testimony presented at the committee meeting, 87 percent of the domestic airline market is now concentrated in the hands of four airlines formed through these above mergers.

McGee’s litany of “the good” and “the bad” seems clear from

Do we really want DOT making cell rules for airlines?

Since the prospect of making cell phone calls is now possible, the initial reaction from the flying public has been dramatically anti-cell-phone-use. Comments filed with the Department of Transportation from consumers support a firm rule of no-cell-phone-calls aboard aircraft. Some airlines have promised they will never allow cell phone calls on plane.

Please read through the following points and take the survey. This will be used to help the Department of Transportation (DOT) to shape its policies, if it is determined that DOT has jurisdiction in this area.


Is this a knee-jerk reaction? Using cell phones would be far more expensive and controllable than cell phone use in normal life.

Should a cell phone rule be nationwide and for all flights? And, implemented by the government?

Would a quiet section work, such as in the back of the plane?

Would quiet times work for long-distance flights? Perhaps cell phones could be used for the first hour of flight and the last hour before landing? That would be easy for the airlines to implement by simply shutting down the system and then, later, turning it back on.

What about short flights like the shuttle between Washington and New York or

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    Tell us how much it costs! Passenger poll shows frustration with airline fee disclosure

Tell us how much it costs! Passenger poll shows frustration with airline fee disclosure

In a poll conducted by Travelers United in response to requests from the Department of Transportation (DOT) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) more than 2,600 consumers dramatically responded loud and clear, “Tell us how much it costs!”

The poll was distributed to this blog; sent to be distributed to readers of other travel blogs like JohnnyJet, Bootsnall,, wanderlustandlipstick;,, tweeted out daily for two weeks; boosted on Facebook to another 50,000+ Facebook users between the ages of 25 and 55 who have traveled in the past year and the survey was spread through word-of-mouth.

We ended up with 2,600+ respondents. Once we hit about 800 respondents, the survey answers didn’t vary much. The biggest changes were in the makeup of the demographics of the surveys. We started out skewing to an older audience and then shifted to a younger group of travelers.

All age groups follow similar patterns in their answers within 2-3 percentage points. The answers were amazingly consistent. Travelers want to know how much their trip will cost. They want to be able to compare complete prices of airline transportation while planning travel and when purchasing travel.

The questions were created from suggestions included in DOT’s Transparency of airline

By |October 1st, 2014|Surveys|0 Comments|
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    Travelers United comments submitted to the docket for DOT rulemaking

Travelers United comments submitted to the docket for DOT rulemaking

Travelers United filed it comments with the Department of Transportation (DOT) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The Transparency of Airline Ancillary Fees and Other Consumer Protection Issues — Docket: DOTOST20140056 –comments totals more than 80 pages and included in-depth discussions of the main rulemaking sections.

The Travelers United comments were joined by the National Consumers League.

Here are the Appendices A, B and C for the NPRM. These include an ancillary fee study by IdeaBank, a survey conducted by Open Allied for Airfare Transparency and Travelers United, another survey conducted by Travelers United in response to requests in the NPRM from DOT.

This is App A&B&C NPRM Comments Travelers United & NCL – Google Docs

Here is the link to Appendix D — a series of screenshots that show the lack of ancillary fee price transparency in today’s airlines website.

Here are the conclusions from the comments
For the reasons discussed above, Travelers United and NCL urge the Department to issue promptly a final rule in this proceeding that requires airlines to disclose to all ticket agents through which they choose to distribute their fare, schedule and availability information, including GDSs, OTAs, metasearch websites, corporate and brick-and-mortar travel agencies, dynamic and transactable

Important survey for DOT (deadline extended)

Please click through to this survey that Travelers United is conducting in order to collect information requested by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for their work on an upcoming regulation. DOT has asked for consumer input for their consideration. Let’s let them hear it.

This is already one of the most successful surveys conducted for the DOT about the consumers’ point of view of purchasing airline tickets in the age of extra fees, since 2008.

Airline Fee Transparency Survey

Thank you. The deadline is Saturday, September 27, 2014.

Working in DC on the DOT rulemaking

Perhaps the most mysterious acronym in Washington is NPRM. It stands for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This is where the rubber meets the road in government. This is where the regulations are written to put laws into effect.

It is through the rulemaking process that consumer groups prevailed and got tarmac delay rules created. It is through the rulemaking process that the 24-hour rule, which allows passengers 24 hours within which to change their minds about most airline tickets or correct mistakes. It was through the rulemaking process that lost luggage and bumping compensation were increased.

Today, the new rules being considered will require airlines to disclose extra fees when consumers are purchasing their airline tickets. If Travelers United prevails, new DOT rules will allow airline passengers to see not only airfares when they check prices to compare across airlines, but also extra baggage and seat-reservation fees. And, perhaps, more.

Having a team of consumers, with the interests of consumer travelers working in Washington, DC, is something travelers never had prior to the creation of Travelers Unites (formerly Consumer Travel Alliance). But, today our organization is involved in travel from ticket purchase and advertising rules to hotel reservation fees, and from rental

Oh my, I lost my ID. How am I going to get home?

If you’re a US citizen or resident, traveling in the U.S., and your government issued photo ID, is lost or stolen, or worse, if you’re in a foreign country and your passport is lost or stolen, you don’t have to panic. Your fate won’t be the same as Charlie’s in the Kingston Trio’s song, “The Man Who Never Returned.”

When your driver’s license goes missing, immediately filed a police report. The police faxed her a copy of the report. She went to the airport and presented the police report to the TSA agent at the entrance to security. Seeing the report, the TSA agent asked if she had a Costco Card. She did. She caught a break, but you can’t depend every TSA Officer will accept it. The Costco card has its member’s photo embedded in the card. She got through security and flew home.

Most of us don’t have some kind of second photo ID when we travel, but we still can get through TSA security when traveling in the US if our government issued photo ID has been lost or stolen.

According to TSA,
Adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a US federal or state-issued photo ID … in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto

Airline passengers beg, “Treat us like dogs”

Seat pitch in planes keeps shrinking; seats themselves become thinner and less comfortable; and the width of seats is getting narrower as Americans get, shall we say, broader. Let’s face it, coach passengers are facing a squeeze that they have never experienced before in the history of aviation.

Pets, on the other hand, are protected by specific space, food and water requirements. With the differences between the front of the plane and the back of the plane getting more dramatic, passengers are beginning to think that some kind of human minimum space requirements should be mandated.

Now that airlines have discovered their perverse marketing logic that discomfort helps them sell more seats with pitch, all humane considerations for adequate seat dimensions seem to have been tossed aside. Worse, passenger discomfort has become a profit center.
You might call it a game of aeronautical chairs that will directly affect passenger comfort, convenience and cost.

Two experts with inside knowledge of the airline seat industry — a vice president at a seat manufacturer and a nationally recognized expert in the study of body measurements — recently talked frankly about some of the reasons behind the anger and discomfort.

Americans are getting bigger, says Kathleen Robinette, who’s