Photographer: Feng Li/Getty Images

Big Airlines Cheer as Trump Administration Suspends Obama-Era Consumer Protection

  • A proposal to require more transparent bag fees now on hold
  • Reversal had been sought by airlines and their trade group

The U.S. Transportation Department has taken its first steps to undo actions by the administration of Barack Obama to improve consumer protections for airline travelers, putting on hold a proposal to require more disclosure of passenger fees.

The process of collecting public comments for the proposal has been suspended, President Donald Trump’s DOT said in a posting dated Thursday on the Regulations.gov website.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s move was praised by Airlines for America, the Washington trade group for large carriers. “We applaud Secretary Chao’s leadership today and look forward to an era of smarter regulation that protects consumers from unfair practices, but does not step in when action is not warranted,” A4A President and CEO Nicholas Calio said in a release.

The agency is also delaying the implementation of a separate regulation requiring airlines to disclose when they mishandle wheelchairs and motorized scooters for the disabled, according to another filing. The rule, which became final on Dec. 2, won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2019, a one-year delay, according to the DOT’s notice.

The move had been sought by A4A and Delta Air Lines Inc., according to the DOT notice.

Prior story: Should You Pay Airline for Bags It Misplaced? U.S. Says No

Airlines generate about $4 billion a year in bag fees, and the Obama administration announced last fall it would seek to make them disclose those fees when people purchase their tickets. In a separate action required by Congress, the department is exploring whether to require a refund of those fees if luggage arrives late.

Consumer groups, frustrated by the Obama administration’s slow pace of adopting new rules, will continue to push for more disclosure of fees, said Charles Leocha, president of Travelers United Inc.

The transportation department hasn’t suspended all regulatory actions related to airline fees and could still resurrect them, Leocha said. “We’re basically back to where we were at the beginning of October,” he said.

American Airlines Group Inc. spokesman Matt Miller referred to A4A’s statement when asked to respond. United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and Delta didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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