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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Consumer Service, Safety, and Security

With the enormous role service, safety, and security play in everyday air travel, it's worth taking a few words to describe the government organizations responsible for these issues.

The Department of Transportation, or DOT (http://www.dot.gov), is the department of the U.S. government that coordinates and institutes national transportation programs. The DOT oversees consumer service issues, such as denied boarding, lost baggage, overbooking, and ticketing; it also compiles on-time performance statistics.

This information is issued in the Air Travel Consumer Report (http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/), published by the DOT. This monthly online report presents statistics on flight delays by airline, time of day, and airport; mishandled baggage by airline; oversales by airline; and consumer compliants. Just remember that an airline's overall statistical record in any particular month may be more a factor of the airports and parts of the country it flies to than the actual performance of the airline.

You can also contactl the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection Division to register your concerns about airline service. To record your comments, call %202.366.2220, or send an email to >airconsumer@ost.dot.gov.

The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA (http://www.faa.gov) falls under the leadership of the DOT. The primary mission of the FAA is to oversee the safety of civil aviation; this includes the issuance and enforcement of regulations and standards related to aircraft.

On November 19, 2001, President Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), which, among other things, established a new Transportation Security Administration, or TSA (http://www.tsa.gov). The TSA is the federal agency charged with providing security for the nation's transportation system and is under the new Department of Homeland Security. If you have a question or complaint about airline security, you can call the TSA's Consumer Response Center at 866.289.9673.

Determining which agency does what is a little confusing because they tend to overlap somewhat. For example, the FAA is responsible for the rule that says you are allowed only one carry-on and a personal item, whereas the TSA says that you can't pack your pocket knife in that one bag allowed by the FAA. When in doubt, remember that DOT = service, FAA = safety, and TSA = security.

Finally, if you're worried about the financial security of your airline (and, in these days of tottering elephants, who isn't?), the Aviation and Transportation Security Act provides a safety net for passengers flying on "financially challenged" airlines. It does this by mandating that airlines flying the same routes of an airline that has ceased operations have to transport passengers holding tickets on the defunct airline, on a standby basis. Passengers have 60 days after operations have ceased to make alternative air travel plans; the new airline may charge up to a $25 fee for this service.

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