DOT Now Expects Air Fee Proposals To Be Made Public In July

The U.S. Department of Transportation on April 8 submitted for review to the Office of Management and Budget its hotly debated "Enhancing Passenger Protections III" proposed rulemaking__a final step before the proposals are opened for public comment.

After several delays, DOT expects the review by OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs division to be completed and the draft proposals to be publicly revealed by July 15.

DOT already has floated publicly some key tenets of the proposals. Some are aimed squarely at the distribution of airfares, including a divisive consideration to "require that ancillary fees be displayed through all sale channels."

Through the rulemaking, DOT also plans to address whether it should require travel agents to "adopt minimum customer service standards in relation to the sale of air transportation"; disclose carriers "whose tickets they sell or do not sell and information regarding any incentive payments they receive in connection with the sale of air transportation"; and disclose "preferential display of individual fares or carriers in the ticket agent's Internet displays."

OMB's OIRA division will contemplate "alternatives to the rulemaking and analysis of the rule's effects on society, both its benefits and costs," according to the OIRA website.

In a timeline released as part of DOT's monthly Significant Rulemaking Report, the department is allocating a 90-day OIRA review. A review "may be extended by the head of the rulemaking agency, and the OMB director may extend the review period on a one-time basis for no more than 30 days," according to OIRA. The average time for 712 reviews conducted since 2003 was 53 days, and "there is no minimum period for review."

After completing its review, OIRA would enable DOT to proceed with the public comment period or "return" the rule to DOT for a rewrite if "further agency effort is needed before the agency may publish the rule."

"For example, the agency may have provided inadequate analysis regarding alternatives," according to OIRA. "In such cases, agencies may, and frequently do, conduct further work on the draft and resubmit it for OMB consideration."

Once published, DOT's notice of proposed rulemaking would be subjected to a three-month public comment period__now scheduled to last through mid-October__before the department publishes final rules.