April 20, 2007
DOT and DG-TREN Website Roundup
I noticed some interesting new proceedings and information while trolling around the U.S. DOT and European Commission DG-TREN's websites:
(1) DG-TREN has recently expanded a section on their website dedicated to routes where public service obligations are imposed. The new webpage gives up to date information on PSO routes, what carrier is serving them and ongoing tender procedures. This increased level of transparency makes sense at a time when the application of PSO obligations is increasingly coming under fire from low fare carriers in Europe (see Section 6 of ELFAA position paper on 3rd package revisions).
(2) Similarly, the first applications are being received for the DOT's 2007 solicitation of proposals for its Small Community Air Service Development Program (see Order instituting proceeding). Applications are due by April 27, 2007 so the next week should bring a great deal of interesting reading in this docket. The Program is funded at $9.9 million, and up to 40 applications can be awarded (only 4 per any one state). The Boyd Group, a consulting firm that has worked on these applications in the past, has a web page with some interesting insight into what type of proposals might be successful.
(3) Earlier this month, the European Commission presented a report which evaluated the results of the application of their airline passenger rights regulation (see DG-TREN webpage on this topic). The Commission determined that "further work is needed in a number of areas: improving enforcement, clarifying the interpretation of certain aspects of the regulation, establishing clarity between delays and cancellations as different rights are awarded to the passengers depending on the circumstances, and enhancing the role of the National Enforcement Bodies that oversee the application of the common rules." The Commission will be working with the National Enforcement Bodies over the next six months to step up enforcement of the rules. If this is not satisfactory the Commission has threatened to bring infringement actions against lagging Member States. Also, in a direct acknowledgment of the complaint lodged with the European Ombudsman, the Commission will prepare updated information material to inform passengers of their rights under the regulation.
(4) Finally, the DOT is conducting an interesting administrative proceeding considering if the recent increase in airport terminal charges assessed by Los Angeles International Airport to its tenants is reasonable and non-discriminatory (see Order instituting the proceeding). A recommended decision by the administrative law judge is due by May 15, 2007 with a final order due by June 15, 2007. United Airlines, which has a significant hub operation at LAX, recently announced that it will add a $10 surcharge for passengers departing LAX in an effort to offset a $10 million annual cost burden it will face under the new scheme.