US Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation (DOT) after investigating a consumers formal complaint that American Airlines (AA) was lying to consumers by stating that fuel surcharges were “taxes.” After admitting that their representatives has lied, and promising to retrain their agents, AA was fined $60,000. It appear they are still misrepresenting as before.

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Airlines are not providing coach passengers the available seating inventory when they book flights. Why? Some say to drive passengers to purchase a more expensive seat. Others say it is to hold seats back for elite frequent fliers. In any case, it is deceptive and sleazy.

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the European Union (EU) don’t seem to have ever seen an airline deal that they don’t like. Consumers are being consulted and there are comments that can be submitted to DOT, but the airlines are getting what they want. Consumers are getting less competition and ultimately higher prices.

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The overall number of privacy complaints received by the FTC is something over 2 million complaints annually. The number of privacy complaints registered with DOT was zero. That’s right, zero.

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Last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought forward by a group of airlines challenging new Department of Transportation (DOT) rules requiring them to use the effective full price of airfares including all mandatory taxes, fees and surcharges. In other words, the airlines claimed damages from being told to tell the truth in pricing of air transportation.

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Back in February, the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) received notification from Change.org that they were initiating a petition to protest the treatment of Greyhound bus passengers who had been forced to wait for a connecting bus in freezing Mid-West, mid-winter weather. The merger of Change.org’s petition with CTA’s contacts within DOT produced a move by Greyhound to guarantee that this would not happen again.

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Travel as we know it will not turn into an ordeal today. From the speeches that the Secretary of Transportation and the The Secretary of Homeland Security have recently given, combined with rhetoric coming from the administration, the public should be forgiven if they thought the world as we know it was ending.

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A more activist Transportation Department, which set a record in 2011 for the number of fines it issued against airlines for violating aviation consumer protection rules, appears to have maintained its momentum this past year. In 2012, the Department issued 49 fines for consumer rule violations and assessed $3,610,000 in penalties, exceeding the previous record of 47 fines and $3,264,000 in penalties issued in 2011.

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From a passenger’s point of view, 2012 was on of the most momentous since deregulation. Airline consumers reached more milestones and the Department of Transportation (DOT) put into effect more passenger protections than in the history of the department. Here are a dozen changes for the good for airline consumers.

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This festive holiday season is starting off dismally for consumers. Between mergers that are stripping competition from the airways and delays at DOT that hurt transparency of airline ancillary fees, consumers are getting a dose of coal for Christmas.

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