Consumer Protection Is Apparently A Bad Idea

The U.S. Department of Transportation put into effect new rules that makes flying more convenient and hassle-free for air travelers in the U.S. The new rules include requirements that airlines refund baggage fees if bags are lost, increase compensation provided to passengers bumped from oversold flights, and provide passengers greater protections from lengthy tarmac delays.

Rules like these have been in effect for years in Europe and has made flying a lot more enjoyable for everyone. And has giving consumers the tools that they can ensure that they get what they paid for, without being left at the mercy of an airliner on an airport far from home.

But when the news of this reached Lee Doren he posted the following on his Google+ profile:

Holy crap this is stupid. The DOT will force airlines to reimburse people for delays among other things.

Planes are delayed often b/c of weather (not in their control), the FAA (not in their control) and the Airports (minimally in their control). So now they will be fined for things not in their control, meaning they will have to raise prices on everyone.

Even worse, since you’re statistically more likely to die from a car accident, poor people will avoid flying if prices increase and instead drive long distances. This will increase the statistical likelihood they’ll be in an accident.

Sadly, if you mention this to anyone, they’ll call you anti-consumer. What a joke!

The problem is that the reimbursements only apply if you are bumped from an oversold flight, a problem the airliner caused in the first place. And these rules make sure that they actually give you what you paid for, which is not that much to ask for. Especially when you are on some airport far from home, or trying to reach a vacation destination you spend your own hard earned money on.

Reimbursement doesn’t even come into the picture with the tarmac delays mentioned in the article. This regulation is designed to prevent people from being stuck in an airplane without food, water, toilet facilities, medical treatments or for example proper airconditioning in hot weather. You can imagine that being stuck in an airplane for 3 hours or longer is not exactly comfortable. So the airliner is instructed to get their passengers to the nearest gate as soon as possible, if they fail to do so they are fined (the consumer doesn’t get a cent of this).

But if the airliner can’t help it that people are stranded for long periods of time, and does its best to care for their passengers, they won’t be fined. As the rules give exceptions to the time limits for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons. So the delays Lee mentions that are caused by the weather, FAA and the airports themselves won’t result in a fine.

These rules were a direct response to the airliners failing to properly care for their passengers. And last but not least earlier versions of these rules have been in effect since December 2009. For example they are directly responsible for the reduction in long tarmac delays to only 16 of more than three hours between May 2010 and February 2011, compared to 664 from May 2009 through February 2010.

I told all this to Lee in an attempt to clarify these rules, as it looked like he was just misinterpreting the rules. But he never conceded any of the points and just kept repeating the same points over and over. He just stuck to the idea that these regulations would increases prices for travelers and that the market could solve it on its own. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.

My friend CSBair also tried to reason with Lee and left the following comment:

Mr. Doren: The airliners will not be fined for anything beyond their own control. Weather, strikes and air-traffic issues are not reasons for airliners to be fined, unless they keep passengers on the tarmac for an extensive period of time without adequate provisions. Only when the airliner is at fault (overselling a plane, delays due to maintenance, etc.) will they be fined. You’re making an argument out of thin air by misrepresenting the official story.

The reward for his effort was that Lee blocked him, something he has also done to me before. The block from Lee triggered my friend in making the following excellent video:

Lee Doren's rant about the Department of Transportation's rules

I’ve seen things like this happen before, Lee suddenly claims something or argues against a point that just doesn’t make sense when you investigate it. Like when he jokingly claimed that the Dutch tourism industry would practically collapse if the sale of marijuana to tourists would be banned. Or his extraordinary claim that a green energy company had sent a fake bomb to a professor who is critical of the industry, which turned out to be a fuel filter that was sent to the wrong address. Or his more recent argument that the theory of anthropogenic global warming is now unfalsifiable due to a few tweets claiming a link between the earthquake in Japan and global warming.

Gaffes like this are the reason I don’t accept anything from Lee without first checking if it is actually true.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.