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U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee Members and Creation of Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Buttigieg today announced the appointment of two new members and the reappointment of two current members of the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC). In addition, Secretary Buttigieg announced that Attorney General Maura Healey – an advocate with a track record of protecting consumers from corporate abuses ­– will act as the new Chair of the ACPAC. The Secretary also announced the creation of the new Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee of the ACPAC. The Department is committed to ensuring airline passengers are treated fairly. This news follows on an announcement made last week that the Department has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require airlines to refund fees for checked bags that are significantly delayed and for ancillary services, when consumers pay for them but they are not provided. These announcements are part of how the Department is acting on President Biden’s Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy.

“Airline passengers deserve to have their lives, their rights, and their pocketbooks protected every time they fly. We are thrilled to appoint four strong leaders to help us protect airline consumers during each step of their journey and to launch a new subcommittee that will focus on preventing discrimination of every form,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

 

Over the past decade, consumers have seen the airline industry become increasingly concentrated. The pandemic has shown how critical the Department’s consumer protection mission is, and today's appointments will help the Department fulfill this important mission.  

 

The ACPAC evaluates current aviation consumer protection programs and provides recommendations to the Secretary for improving them, as well as recommending any additional consumer protections that may be needed. The Committee’s charter is available online here

 

As required by statute, the Secretary has appointed one representative each of U.S. airlines, consumer groups, airports, and State or local governments.  

 

The ACPAC’s newest members bring a wealth of valuable experience and proven dedication to consumer protection. They are: 

 

Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, as the State government representative 

“Consumer protection is a critical component of my work as a state attorney general, and that includes educating the public about their rights. I am honored to be appointed State government representative and Chair of the ACPAC, and look forward to working with DOT to ensure that air travelers can access the resources they need to stay safe and informed.” – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey 

 

John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud at National Consumers League, as the consumer representative

"The Department of Transportation plays a critical consumer protection role for the tens of millions of airline passengers who fly every year. I am honored that the Secretary has appointed me to advocate on behalf of the flying public on this important advisory committee."  John Breyault, Vice President, Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud for the National Consumers League 

 

Attorney General Healey will also act as the new Chair of the ACPAC.  In addition to the new members, two existing members that have made valuable contributions and whose service will provide continuity to the Committee’s work have been appointed to new terms: 

 

Patricia Vercelli, General Counsel of Airlines for America, as the airline representative 

“I’m honored to continue to serve in this important role on behalf of the U.S. airline industry, and I thank Secretary Buttigieg for my re-appointment. The ACPAC has been a valuable tool and an effective forum for considering data and evidence relating to consumer protection issues in a transparent and public manner. I look forward to working with my fellow Committee members and the Department of Transportation in the months ahead.” – Patricia Vercelli, General Counsel of Airlines for America 

 

Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, as the airport representative  

“It is both a duty and a privilege to continue serving on the advisory committee. We are committed to listening to and advocating on behalf of U.S. consumers on various issues impacting today’s diverse travelers.”  Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority 

 

The Secretary is also announcing the creation of the Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee as a subcommittee of the ACPAC.  Federal law prohibits airlines from subjecting an air traveler to discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, ancestry, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The Department investigates all discrimination-related complaints that it receives against airlines. The Department will use the subcommittee to further protect all passengers.  

 

The Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee will review airlines’ policies, procedures, and practices to prevent discrimination against air travelers based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, ancestry, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee will develop recommendations for consideration by the ACPAC on best practices relating to training and other actions that can be taken by DOT, airlines or others to ensure nondiscriminatory delivery of airlines’ programs and activities to air travelers. The Department will select representatives to serve on the Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee from industry and members of group this subcommittee will represent.   

 

The Department plans to publish in the near future a Federal Register notice soliciting nominations and applications to serve on the Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee.  The Department will select individuals based on representativeness and expertise.  

 

The Department anticipates that a meeting of the ACPAC will be held later this year.  The meeting will be open to the public.  The Department will post on its website and issue a Federal Register notice announcing the date of the first meeting after coordinating with the ACPAC members. 

 

Additional information on passengers’ rights to fly free of discrimination, including how to file a discrimination complaint with DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection can be found here

 

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