Aviation News, Headlines & Alerts
Category: <span>DOT</span>

Transportation Department Investigating Airlines for Alleged Price Gouging after Amtrak Crash

US Transportation Department has started an investigation into possible overcharging by airlines following May 2015 Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia.

The New York-Washington Amtrak rail service was suspended after a derailment that took 11 lives and injured 200 people.

The department has sent letters to JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Continental Holdings, asking for their average fares before, during and after the accident. According to transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “These airlines have allegedly raised fees beyond what you would ordinarily be expected in the Northeast Corridor at a time when the Amtrak line was shut down.”

Press Release: FAA Proposes $295,750 Civil Penalty Against Skywest Airlines


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $295,750 civil penalty against SkyWest Airlines, Inc. of St. George, Utah, for allegedly violating DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations.

The FAA alleges SkyWest failed to include more than 150 safety?sensitive employees in its random drug testing pool. Further, SkyWest allegedly failed to receive verified negative drug test results for two other employees before hiring one for, and transferring the other to, safety-sensitive positions.

The FAA also alleges SkyWest subjected three employees who were not in safety-sensitive positions to post-accident drug tests that are only applicable to safety-sensitive employees, and improperly cancelled a return-to-duty test because it was not directly observed.

SkyWest is scheduled to have an informal conference with the FAA this month to discuss the matter.

DOT Fines American Airlines

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined American Airlines $60,000 for violating the Department’s full-fare advertising rule after the airline’s agents told consumers that surcharges levied by the airlines were government-imposed taxes. DOT ordered the carrier to cease and desist from further violations.

“We expect airlines to be truthful to their customers when they provide information about their fares,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines fail to disclose their fares fully and accurately.”
Under the Department’s full-fare advertising rule, the first price quoted for air transportation made by an airline or ticket agent must state the entire price to be paid by the consumer, including all mandatory taxes, fees and airline surcharges. Airlines do not have to break out the components of the fare, but if they do, they must accurately show the costs of the services or taxes.
Following a complaint from a consumer, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office investigated how American described to potential passengers the taxes and carrier surcharges that it collected. It found that on a number of occasions in 2012 and 2013, American’s telephone reservation agents mistakenly told consumers that a variety of additional taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges were collectively “taxes.” A significant portion of these charges were not taxes but fees imposed by the airline, such as fuel surcharges. In addition, pop-ups on the airline’s website claimed that these surcharges were taxes and, on at least one occasion, American issued a reservation statement labeling surcharges as taxes. The carrier has corrected its website and provided additional training to its agents.


DOT Fines Brazilian Airline for Violations of Airline Consumer Rules

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined the Brazilian airline GOL $250,000 for violating a number of DOT’s rules protecting the rights of air travelers. This is the largest penalty assessed for violations of the rules adopted in April 2011.
The airline was ordered to cease and desist from further violations of the Department’s airline consumer rules.
“We adopted these rules to ensure that passengers are treated with respect when they buy a ticket or board a plane,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will not tolerate disregard of our rules and will take enforcement action when necessary to protect travelers.”
The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that GOL’s U.S. website, for a period of time after it was launched in November 2012, failed to include a variety of information and features required by DOT air travel consumer protection rules. The website did not include a contingency plan for handling lengthy tarmac delays or a link from the homepage to a list of fees for baggage and other optional services.
GOL also violated DOT’s full-fare advertising requirement by failing to include taxes and fees in fares displayed on the website in response to consumer searches. The full fare, including taxes and fees, was available only after the consumer selected a specific itinerary.
The airline also failed to post its contract of carriage in an easily accessible form on its website. A consumer had to begin the process of searching for an itinerary before being able to gain access to the contract information. This made it hard to easily compare GOL’s contract with those of other airlines, and made obtaining the contract difficult for passengers who wanted to review the information online before booking a flight by telephone or with a ticket agent.
GOL also failed to include on its website required information on how consumers can file a complaint with the airline.

Press Release: Airline Consumer Complaints Down From Previous Year

WASHINGTON – Airline consumer complaints filed with DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division during the first nine months of this year were down 14.1 percent from the first nine months of 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report released today.
From January to September 2013, the Department received 10,439 consumer complaints, down from the total of 12,153 filed during the first nine months of 2012. In September, the Department received 1,008 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 6.8 percent from the 1,081 complaints filed in September 2012 and down 23.5 percent from the 1,318 received in August 2013.

The consumer report also includes data on tarmac delays, on-time performance, cancellations, chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays filed with the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by the reporting carriers. In addition, the consumer report contains information on airline bumping, mishandled baggage reports filed by consumers with the carriers, and disability and discrimination complaints received by DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. The consumer report also includes reports of incidents involving the loss, death, or injury of pets traveling by air, as required to be filed by U.S. carriers.

DOT Fines US Airways for Failure to Provide Wheelchair Assistance to Passengers with Disabilities

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined US Airways $1.2 million for failing to provide adequate wheelchair assistance to passengers in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. The fine is one of the largest ever assessed by DOT in a disability case.

“All air travelers deserve to be treated equally and with respect, and this includes persons in wheelchairs and other passengers with disabilities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to make sure that airlines comply with our rules and treat their passengers fairly.”

Under DOT’s rules implementing the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to provide free, prompt wheelchair assistance upon request to passengers with disabilities. This includes helping passengers to move between gates and make connections to other flights.
In one of its periodic reviews of airline compliance with DOT rules, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that US Airways committed a significant number of violations of the requirements for wheelchair assistance during 2011 and 2012 at Philadelphia International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. As part of its review, the Enforcement Office examined approximately 300 complaints filed by passengers with the airline and DOT relating to incidents at Philadelphia and Charlotte, which covered only a sample of complaints filed over two years against US Airways for the two airports. The airline’s use of a combination of electric carts and wheelchairs to carry passengers between gates required frequent transfers and led to long delays. Some passengers missed connections because of the delays or were left unattended for long periods of time.

Of the $1.2 million fine, US Airways may use up to $500,000 for improvements in its service to passengers with disabilities that are beyond what DOT rules require. These include hiring managers to ensure the quality of the airline’s disability services in Philadelphia and Charlotte, creating a telephone line to assist these passengers, purchasing tablets and other equipment to monitor assistance requests, providing compensation to passengers with disability-related complaints, and programming the airline’s computers so that boarding passes identify passengers who request special services.

DOT Press Release: Code Share Disclosure

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined two ticket agents for violating the Department’s rules on disclosure of code-share flights. DOT issued a $125,000 fine against Carlson Wagonlit Travel and a $65,000 fine against Frosch International Travel, and both companies were ordered to cease and desist from further violations. The amount of the fines was based on the specific circumstances of the individual cases. Today’s consent orders are part of an ongoing effort by DOT to ensure that ticket agents comply with the code-share disclosure rules.

“No one wants to arrive to their gate and learn for the first time that the airline they thought was operating their flight actually sold them a ticket for another airline,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to make sure that all companies selling air transportation are transparent with consumers and will take enforcement action when they fail to disclose code-sharing arrangements.”
Under code-sharing, an airline sells seats on flights using its designator code, but the flights are operated by a separate airline.

In this case, DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office made telephone calls to a number of agents during January and February of 2013 and inquired about booking certain flights. During these calls, the reservations agents for both companies failed to disclose that the flights were being operated under code-share arrangements. The agents identified only the name of the airline marketing the flight and not the name of airline operating the flight. This violated DOT rules requiring airlines and ticket agents to inform consumers if a flight is operated under a code-share arrangement, as well as disclose the corporate name of the transporting airline and any other name under which the flight is offered to the public.

DOT takes enforcement action when necessary against companies that sell air transportation based on consumer complaints and the Department’s own internal investigations. DOT has now issued six fines for code-sharing violations this year, totaling $430,000.

The consent orders are available at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2013-0004.

Plane Crash Investigation Reveals Cause

On April 29, we reported the National Air Cargo flight that crashed when it’s load shifted and the plane stalled. Federal investigators and Boeing experts went to Afghanistan to to assist in the investigation.

On Jun 2nd 2013, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation of Afghanistan investigation announced officially that it was the weight of three armored vehicles and two mine sweepers 80 tons––of shifting cargo that caused the plane to crash.

The wiring in the back of the plane was cut by impact with the cargo, leaving the pilots helpless to control the plane.

There were no survivors.

As a result of the April Crash, on May 17, 2013 Boeing issued the following SAFO:

Review of the Security and Controls over the Civil Aviation Registry Systems – Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for setting, overseeing, and enforcing safety standards in the aviation industry. FAA’s Flight Standards Service promotes aviation safety by managing systems for registration of civil aircraft and airman records. These registry systems contain FAA’s official records of civil aircraft registration and ownership, and airman certification, ratings and authorizations. DOT OIG has initiated an audit of the security of the registry systems’ information.

Audit objectives are to determine whether: (1) personally identifiable information is secure from unauthorized use or access; (2) information in the registry systems is sufficient for managing aircraft registrations and airmen’s records; and (3) registry contingency planning ensures FAA’s continued ability to accomplish its mission of aviation safety.

eptember 2010 Passenger Airline Employment Down 0.6 Percent from September 2009

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 – U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 0.6 percent fewer workers in September 2010 than in September 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. This is the 27th consecutive decrease in full-time equivalent employee (FTE) levels for the scheduled passenger carriers from the same month of the previous year (Tables 1, 2). FTE calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the September FTE total of 377,676 for the scheduled passenger carriers was 2,248 below that of September 2009 (Table 3). Historic employment data can be found on the BTS web site.

Five network airlines – American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, Continental Airlines and United Airlines – decreased employment from September 2009 to September 2010. The sixth network carrier, Delta Air Lines, after completing its merger with Northwest Airlines, is reporting combined employment numbers in 2010 and reported 8.4 percent more FTEs in September 2010 than the combined totals of both carriers for September 2009 (Table 9). Network airlines operate a significant portion of their flights using at least one hub where connections are made for flights to down-line destinations or spoke cities.

All seven low-cost carriers reported more FTEs in September 2010 than in September 2009. They are Spirit Airlines; Frontier Airlines; Virgin America Airlines; Allegiant Air; JetBlue Airways; AirTran Airways; and Southwest Airlines (Table 12). Regional carriers Atlantic Southeast, Comair, Horizon Air, Mesa Airlines, Mesaba Airlines, Shuttle America Airlines, and Lynx Airlines reported reduced employment levels compared to last year (Table 15).

Scheduled passenger airline categories include network, low-cost, regional and other airlines.

The six network airlines employed 377,676 FTEs in September, 67.7 percent of the passenger airline total, while seven low-cost carriers employed 17.0 percent and 18 regional carriers employed 13.9 percent (Table 4).

Delta employed the most FTEs in September among the network airlines, Southwest employed the most FTEs among low-cost airlines, and American Eagle Airlines employed the most FTEs among regional airlines. Six of the top 10 employers in the industry are network airlines (Table 6).

Beginning with October 2007 data, US Airways’ numbers are combined with numbers for America West Airlines in the network category. For previous months, America West’s numbers were included with the low-cost airlines.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Funding Commitment for New O’Hare South Air Traffic Control Tower

For Immediate Release

New Facility To Oversee Operations to O’Hare’s New 10R/28L Runway

CHICAGO – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration will fund the design and construction of a new South Air Traffic Control Tower at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, scheduled to be built as part of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP).

The agreement will allow Chicago to complete the construction of the tower in time for the successful commissioning of the new runway 10R/28L, which is scheduled for completion in early 2015.
“O’Hare is a critical transportation link for our country,” said Secretary LaHood. “This tower project will create jobs, spur economic development and help the airport improve efficiency for passengers.”

“The historic O’Hare Modernization Project has received more federal funding than any other airport reconstruction project in history, nearly $800 million,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who fought to increase the funding set aside for airport improvement projects across the nation, including the air traffic control tower at O’Hare. “That remarkable federal investment fuels O’Hare’s position as the economic engine for the region, solidifies Chicago’s role as a global transportation hub and will pay dividends for our state and nation for years to come. The new state-of-the-art air traffic control tower will increase capacity, bringing more travelers to our world-class city, and will boost operations at O’Hare, improving safety while reducing delays. And, just as importantly, it means Illinoisans will have an opportunity to get back to work in good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

“The building of a South Air Traffic Control tower is essential for the continued modernization of O’Hare which increases our ability to compete in the global economy,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley. “A modernized O’Hare will generate new jobs and additional economic activity for Chicago, the region and the state. During these challenging economic times, such economic stimulus is greatly needed.”

The FAA has committed $3.4 million for the design of the new facility, which will build on the O’Hare Modernization Program’s nationally-recognized program for “green” design and construction.

Department of Transportation Report Substantiates Whistleblower’s Safety Concerns at American Airlines Certificate Management Office

U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W.,Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036?4505


WASHINGTON, DC/November 4, 2010—Today the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) transmitted to the President and Congress reports of the Department of Transportation (DOT) responding to a whistleblower’s allegations that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to provide effective oversight of American Airlines and to address the air carrier’s non? compliance with inspection and maintenance requirements.

The whistleblower, Mr. Andrew G. Blosser, an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector assigned to the American Airlines Certificate Management Office (CMO), in Fort Worth, Texas, alleged that CMO officials were unwilling or unable to obtain positive corrective actions from the air carrier and that the failure to enforce inspection and maintenance requirements has resulted in a poorly maintained fleet that represents a safety concern for the flying public. Mr. Blosser identified six areas of concern regarding American Airlines’ non?compliance: (1) maintenance procedures; (2) minimum equipment list (MEL) deferrals; (3) required inspection items (RII); (4) the repair station training needs assessment (TNA); (5) the Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS); and (6) the fuel tank system (FTS) maintenance program.

The report and a supplemental report submitted to OSC by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood substantiated Mr. Blosser’s allegations that the CMO failed to ensure that American Airlines complied with requirements in four of the six areas identified above; specifically, maintenance procedures, MEL deferrals, RII requirements, and CASS requirements. The investigation found that at the time of Mr. Blosser’s disclosures, CMO Actions to ensure compliance were not effective. In addition, the investigation found that inaccurate and untimely FAA guidance for the review and approval of the air carrier’s FTS maintenance program most likely contributed to inspector confusion and uncertainty as to whether the program met federal regulations and airworthiness directive (AD) requirements. ADs are rules that FAA issues to address an unsafe condition that exists in an aircraft product or is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design.

In response to the findings, FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt pledged to take corrective action, including improving policies and procedures within the CMO. In addition, FAA removed or reassigned managers and noted that American Airlines replaced several senior level personnel. FAA further indicated that it plans to have an outside office provide oversight of the CMO to ensure corrective actions are taken. By March 2011, inspectors from outside the region will conduct an independent audit to assess the effectiveness of the corrective actions, and in July 2011, the FAA’s Flight Standards Quality Assurance Division will conduct an independent Flight Standards Evaluation Program evaluation of the CMO.

OSC determined that the agency’s report contains all of the information required by statute and the findings appear reasonable.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints. Its primary mission is to safeguard the merit system in federal employment by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing. OSC also has jurisdiction over the Hatch Act. For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1 (800) 872-9855.

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