I love delays. In fact, I’m not surprised they happen. However, when they do happen in the summertime, I am ticked off.
How was I so sure? Because travelers are ticked off. A year ago, when a red-list email was sent from the government, travelers sure as hell weren’t happy. Now, everything is much the same — but there’s more red, and it seems to come faster.
Wish upon a star. I’m disappointed. But I’m not surprised. The D.C. government, with its abysmal record on honoring its legal obligation to honor a special Temporary Flight Lottery Program, appears to be putting the screws to Americans by creating a red list. What else do we get? Never, and hardly ever, anything with strings attached.
I know things can happen between a traveler and their airline. Just like in my day. If, in times of upset, I travel by Greyhound, I don’t expect the bus to take any care, or responsibility, to make sure I get on another bus as soon as possible. (That’s why I take the bus!)
Sticking to the program is part of the law. For some airlines to honor it, they must offer seats to any traveler. (That’s what the “lottery” program is all about.) If no seat is available, the airline has to assign to the traveler whose name is in the traveler’s Red List a seat at a comparable fare. That’s what the Red List does.
Earlier this year, airlines submitted a petition to the Federal Aviation Administration demanding an end to the program. The airlines argue they shouldn’t have to guarantee Red Listing in either ticket or bill sales. They want flexibility for ticket sales, and flexibility for sale ticket changes.
The airlines want a slew of options. And we want no guarantees.
Yet, come June and July, it isn’t that airlines are complying with the law. And the carriers aren’t even offering “cancel for any reason” policies or special rules. No. They are plowing full speed ahead with their collection and processing of the Red List data.
Gullible travelers who bought tickets specifically through the Red List initiative. Sure, we’re getting a deal, but it’s not a guarantee. But that’s just fine by us. Because, like I mentioned before, we can never rely on a frequent flier miles coupon for airline help. They’re too damned hard to get, and too few — and hard-to-enforce.
What’s frustrating to everyone is the utter lack of accountability and regulation. Even a formal program, such as a TSA addendum or a government rule, cannot stop a red list.
For a couple of weeks this summer, the FAA did deploy a rulemaking process to address the issue. The whole shebang revolves around the waiver the FAA gives airlines when they cannot make Red Listing.
The red-listing issue has legs, is one of the big issues in the new Federal Aviation Reform Act (fraa).
FDA and airlines can either comply with the rulemaking process, or they can simply and quietly stop abiding by the law. But, by failing to execute its letter of the law, the FAA should expect Congress to pass some new rules.
The White House is already taking a hard line on the rules that Congress has created. That’s why FDA/Airlines are desperate to avoid the rulemaking process and blow off Congress’ directives.
The red-listing issue also has potential for Congress to get an earful. By Wednesday, the committees with oversight of the Transportation, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development Sectors released a joint statement on the issue:
“Roughly one year ago, the FAA invited public comment on whether there were any enforcement rules regarding Red Listing that airlines may not be enforcing. We are disappointed that the FAA now refuses to act on any of those comments and has gone on to create a red-list of tens of thousands of travelers, without regard to what enforcement rules they may not be following. “Regulations must be enforced, and Airlines should be held to the same standards and standards that apply to all airlines.”
Earlier this year, the FAA publicly announced the red-listing program and urged travelers to participate. The FAA failed to note it was already created, collecting passenger data, and was supposed to put the program in place immediately. They also failed to note that airlines weren’t required to honor Red Listing in ticket sales or in any other way.
Yes, airlines have been able to take advantage of Red Listing as an excuse to temporarily bump travelers.
What the airlines and FAA are failing to say, however, is that