Airline Passenger Rights in Jeopardy as LaHood Resigns

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After serving four years as the Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood announced yesterday that he will not pursue another term.

During his four year term, LaHood has been an advocate for airline passenger rights and launched a national campaign against distracted driving. He is considered to be the most consumer friendly Transportation Secretary when it came to the topic of airline passenger rights. His position on airline passenger rights focused on penalizing airlines with hefty fines for holding passengers on aircrafts during long tarmac delays. Under LaHood’s new federal rule, airlines can no longer hold passengers during tarmac delays of more than three hours for domestic flights and more than four hours for international flights. Once a passenger has been delayed on the tarmac for three hours (four hours for international flights), the airline must allow passengers to disembark the plane.

In a press release issued this month by the DOT, LaHood stated:

“This Administration believes that consumers have the right to be treated fairly when they fly,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Our tarmac rules are meant to prevent passengers from being trapped in aircraft on the ground for hours on end, and we will continue to work with airlines and airports to make sure that air travelers are treated with the respect they deserve before, during and after their flights.”

Today, there are virtually no tarmac delays over three hours. The DOT’s heavy fines have scared airlines into keeping delays to a minimum, which is a victory for passengers.

LaHood’s exit as the Transportation Secretary brings uncertainty to airline passengers. Although many believed that passenger rights and regulations would continue to improve, a new Transportation Secretary means new priorities and objectives. Will this be the end to the improvement of airline passenger rights?