Advocacy Groups Urge US and UK Governments to Include Consumers in Talks With Airlines on Reopening Transatlantic Travel
Travel Fairness Now, a non-profit coalition that supports greater competition, transparency and fairness for consumers, and the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy organization for issues important to the managed travel community and their business travelers, today called on U.S. Secretary of Transportation (DOT) Pete Buttigieg and the Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps, Member of Parliament and U.K. Secretary of State for Transport, to include consumer groups in meetings proposed by the U.S.- and U.K.-based airlines to discuss resuming trans-Atlantic travel.
In a May 11, 2021 letter to both officials, the CEOs of American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and the U.S. airline lobby Airlines for America proposed a summit led by the two transportation secretaries “to explore a path to safely and expeditiously reopen trans-Atlantic travel in a manner that aligns with public health objectives” to support both nations’ economic recovery and reunite families.
“We encourage U.S. Secretary Buttigieg and U.K. Secretary Shapps to seize this opportunity to introduce a more inclusive form of policymaking where travelers most affected by decisions have a seat at the table and their voices are heard,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Travel Fairness Now. “Travelers want to return to the skies as soon as possible, but also when they feel confident their health and safety are put first.”
“The conventional model of airlines and governments meeting behind closed doors to decide major transportation policies on primarily economic considerations will not fly to achieve a real travel recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman and founder of the Business Travel Coalition. “Business and leisure travelers need to be part of the discussion for any recovery plan to get off the ground.”
Representational fairness for consumers is necessary for the American people to have the government they deserve, want and pay for. American taxpayers pay the cost of DOT and it to be looking out for them — first and foremost.
“We are pleased that the airline industry copied health officials from both countries on their letter,” Ebenhoch added. “Their recommendations, which one U.S. airline dismissed some of as nothing more than a ‘PR strategy,’ must be considered for any plan to be seen as healthy and safe.”
“Consumer groups have been calling on DOT to implement consistent health-safety standards for airports and aircraft cabins to minimize the risk of spreading or contracting COVID,” Mitchell added. “While mandating masks was a welcome step forward, there is much more to be done to encourage organizations to greenlight business travel.”