"The 1978 deregulation of the airline industry in the United States eliminated federal control over many airline business practices, including pricing and domestic route selection. However, the federal government continues to legislate and enforce certain consumer protections for airline passengers. Congress largely determines the degree to which the rights of airline passengers are codified in law or developed through regulatory rulemaking.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation are the primary congressional committees of jurisdiction
over airline passenger rights. Congress can authorize or require the U.S. Department of
Transportation (DOT) to enact rules on certain issues, and it can enact requirements for airlines
through direct legislation. In specific cases, DOT may take enforcement actions against air
carriers that violate consumer protection rules.
Most of DOT’s consumer rules are based on 49 U.S.C. §41712, which directs it to “protect
consumers from unfair or deceptive practices.” Some are based on DOT’s authority to require air
carriers in interstate transportation to provide “safe and adequate service” (49 U.S.C. §41702).
The interpretation of the phrase “unfair or deceptive” can significantly affect the scope of DOT’s
Airline passenger rights