2014, file photo, the first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental airplane to be delivered to Air China is moved into position from Boeing’s assembly facility to Paine Field in Everett, Wash. In their escalating conflict over trade, what the U.S. and China are leaving off their tariff lists tells as much as what’s on the lists. China put smaller planes on its list, but excluded the 747 and other big planes made in the U.S. by Boeing Co. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao has announced that she has reconstituted the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC or Committee) and established the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force (Task Force) as an ACPAC Subcommittee.

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

The Task Force will review current practices, protocols and requirements of U.S. airlines in responding to and reporting allegations of sexual misconduct by passengers on board aircraft.  It will also provide recommendations to the ACPAC on best practices relating to training, reporting, and data collection regarding incidents of sexual misconduct by passengers onboard commercial aircraft.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (FAA Act), signed by President Trump on October 5, 2018, requires the Secretary of Transportation to appoint to the ACPAC four members with one representative each of U.S. airlines, airport operators, state or local governments, and nonprofit public interest groups with expertise in consumer protection.  The FAA Act also specifies that the Task Force members must include representatives from the Department of Transportation, Department of Justice (including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Office of Victims of Crime and Office on Violence Against Women), Department of Health and Human Services, national organizations which specialize in providing services to sexual assault victims, national consumer protection organizations, national travel organizations, labor organizations representing flight attendants and pilots, State and local law enforcement agencies, airports, and air carriers.

For the ACPAC, the Secretary has selected: (1) Pete K. Rahn, Maryland Secretary of Transportation, as the State or local government representative and Chair of the Committee; (2) Frances Smith, Adjunct Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute, as the consumer representative; (3) Patricia Vercelli, General Counsel, Airlines for America, as the airline representative; and (4) Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, as the airport operator representative.  Membership in the Task Force will be announced at the first meeting of the ACPAC.

The first meeting of ACPAC is scheduled to take place on January 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C.   At this meeting, the members of the Task Force will be announced and there will be a discussion of the duties of the Task Force members.  Two other topics – the transparency of airline ancillary service fees and involuntary changes to itineraries – will also be discussed.  This meeting will be open to the public.  Additionally, DOT will stream the event live on the Internet.  See: www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/ACPAC/Notice-Reestablishment-and-First-Meeting.

The FAA Act also mandates that the Department establish an advisory committee to address the air travel needs of passengers with disabilities and another advisory committee to improve the disclosure of charges and fees for patients requiring lifesaving air medical transport.   The Department plans this calendar year to post on its website (https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/latest-news) a notice soliciting nominations and applications to serve on these advisory committees.  The Department will select individuals based on representativeness and expertise.

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