August 17, 2018 – Questioning the Need for More Airline Baggage Handling Regulations
What is the mishandled baggage reporting (MBR) rule?
Long-standing federal regulations require air carriers to report the number of lost bags per total number of passengers, and that statistic is published in a monthly Air Travel Consumer Report easily accessible to the public. More recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed revisions to this rule that would require airlines to calculate the number of lost bags per total number of bags checked. The DOT argues that a revised formula is necessary because fewer individuals are checking bags on some of the major carriers.
Why is a revised MBR rule a problem?
Losing a checked bag is a nightmare, and airline passengers should reasonably expect carriers to do everything in their power to prevent this terrible outcome. But the issue we need to consider is whether additional requirements on top of the sensible ones already in place will do noticeably more good.
At least one major carrier disputes the basic DOT premise that fewer passengers are checking bags. But even if the assumptions underlying the DOT’s push for revised rulemaking are true, there is no denying that implementing a revised MBR rule will cost airlines money. One study estimates the added costs to airlines to be at least $10 million. In an industry of razor-thin margins, those costs will inevitably end up being passed along to consumers.
What am I doing about it?
I successfully offered an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4) that would prevent the DOT from implementing any changes to the MBR rule before carrying out a cost-benefit analysis. H.R. 4, which passed the House of Representatives on April 27, is awaiting action in the Senate.
What are they saying?
"In the almost seven years since the Department proposed the Rule neither government, public interest groups nor any private party has been able to show any quantifiable, or even unquantifiable, public benefits of this Rule. In fact, no party has convincingly demonstrated that the government has a legitimate role in a deregulated industry of requiring airlines to report this service metric." – American Airlines