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  • Are Consumers Smart Enough to Understand Airline Ancillary Fees?

    September 25, 2014 4:06 PM

    In May, I criticized the Department of Transportation’s opening of a rulemaking on airline ancillary fees (baggage, seat assignments, etc.), noting that the primary motivation appeared to be continued expansion of the department’s unfair and deceptive practices authority. In addition, the department’s apparent opinion that consumers are unable to understand ancillary fees, and compare fares and fees across airlines, is completely unsupported.

    Yesterday, I filed comments on behalf of CEI fleshing out some of these objections.

    To be sure, no one is advocating that airlines be permitted to deceive and defraud consumers on ancillary fees. The core of the debate is whether or not the current regulations requiring ancillary fee disclosure do too little to protect consumers. Under current regulations, airlines are required to post online comprehensive listings of their fees. Here is the page produced by American Airlines. While the table is certainly lengthy, is it too complicated for the average consumer? I think not.

  • User Fees Are Not Taxes: The Case for PFCs

    September 9, 2014 3:14 PM

    I've noted in the past the natural appeal passenger facility charges (PFCs) should have with fiscal conservatives. These are the user fees airports are allowed to charge passengers leaving their airports. Unlike federal Airport Improvement Program grants (funded via an array of taxes through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund) and local debt financing, PFCs offer a fair, transparent, and direct way for users to pay for the infrastructure investments from which they benefit. The monies collected by the airports are kept by the airports, who then use the funds to make Federal Aviation Administration-approved airport improvements. There are no Washington fiscal sleights of hand about which to worry and accountability remains a local matter.

    Unfortunately, Congress has capped the maximum PFC at $4.50, an amount unchanged since 2000. Since then, inflation has eroded that buying power by nearly half. Major airports are lobbying Congress to raise that cap, something we at CEI believe is badly needed. Illustrating that this is beyond ideology, the White House has also endorsed raising the PFC cap.

    Over at Human Events, CEI President Lawson Bader explains why those who attempt to conflate user fees with taxes (and raising the PFC cap with dreaded tax increases) are mistaken:

  • One Year Later: TSA Still Flouting the Law on Body Scanners

    June 18, 2014 10:12 AM

    CEI Research Associate Matthew La Corte contributed to this article.

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses more than 700 full-body imaging scanners in 160 airports nationwide. In addition to the empirical evidence that shows they don’t actually make us safer and the questions on the intrusion of traveler privacy, the TSA is violating the federal Administrative Procedure Act. Next Tuesday, June 24, marks the one-year anniversary of the public comment deadline on body scanners and the TSA is still failing to comply with federal law and a federal court’s order.

    Why is this important to the average citizen? The TSA’s scanners inconvenience travelers, provide few if any safety benefits, and face high deployment costs. The limited data available suggest body scanners are a completely inappropriate airport security tool and should be scrapped in favor of more effective and less intrusive security measures. Given this, the TSA's thumbing its nose at the rule of law is especially troubling.

    The Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies create regulations like airport body-scanners, states that agencies must publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and solicit public comments before promulgating a rule. TSA failed to do this and has been flouting the law for years. 

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