Among the many travel reforms proposed by President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, here are the ones he is missing.
For those unfamiliar, here’s some background on the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. Colloquially called “Mayor Pete” as he was Mayor of South Bend, Indiana when running for president in the 2020 election, he is known for his approachable nature. As the first candidate from a major party to enter the presidential race openly gay, the graduate of Harvard, Rhodes Scholar, and Navy Reserve veteran won the Iowa Caucuses in his bid to unseat Donald Trump for the White House before losing the primary to President Joe Biden.
He was nominated by (then) President-elect Biden and upon confirmation, moved with his husband, Chasten, to Washington DC to serve as Transportation Secretary.
Many of the proposed changes to the travel sector are warranted and welcomed. Holding airlines accountable for delivering the bags they charge customers for without impeding their journey amounts to common-sense policy. If wifi doesn’t work to a certain standard during my flight, I should be refunded the fee. Thank you for that.
Those alone do not address serious issues that face your sector. Significant changes that could deliver value and hold transportation companies accountable are already on the books, they just aren’t enforced.
For example, DoT CFR 399.88 states that when an airline makes a mistake in pricing a flight, it should be held to that price in the same way that consumers who mistakenly purchase a ticket. Right now, an airline can sell a ticket and choose not to honor it if they deem it a mistake despite CFR 399.88. The DoT has openly stated it will not enforce the directive they have written.
That policy has been critical over the last 18 months and will be going forward. Just months ago, tickets were on sale to Japan for $200. Was that a mistake or low pricing due to low passenger demand? How should the consumer know the difference? How can a consumer know the difference between an intentionally priced business class fare between Europe and the US for under $1000 roundtrip from a mistake fare?
Resort fees have become a part of the pricing structure for some hotels. However, in order for it to qualify as a fee and not included in the price of the nightly stay, it must be optional. If it’s not optional, it should be a part of the displayed price. Failure to enforce the rules that govern what constitutes a “rate” allows big brands to avoid competition on price and deceive customers while earning as little as $20/night up to $75/night in some cases. A simple directive that enforces what is considered a nightly rate will result in savings for consumers and hold companies using this for nefarious purposes accountable.
Europe has an arrival guarantee that compensates travelers when airlines do not do their job. Outside of weather, if a flight is late and the passenger does not get where they are going when the airline said they would, they are due something for their trouble.
Simple but important reforms could make a lasting impact that benefits consumers in the United States and best of all, new legislation (outside of an arrival guarantee) is not required. A stroke of the pen to enforce what is already on the books would mean accountability for brands and provide a full picture of the cost of a stay. This is an easy win, respectfully, I hope the Secretary acts on rules already in place.
What do you think? Should these rules be enforced? Are there others the Secretary should address?