President Obama walks up the steps of Air Force One at Pittsburgh International Airport Oct. 13.(Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
WASHINGTON — President Obama touted new regulations on the airline industry on Saturday, saying consumer protection rules like refunds for delayed bags are "another example of how government can be a force for good."
Obama, now just three months away from having to fly commercial airlines for the first time in nearly a decade, told a Saturday radio audience that he understands the hassles of air travel and thinks government can play a role in making it easier.
"I’m going to be honest with you – one of the best parts of being president is having your own plane. And I’m going to miss it. A lot," he said. "Because up until I ran for this office, I was mostly flying coach. So I know what a pain the whole process can be – from searching for the best prices to that feeling you get when the baggage carousel stops and yours still hasn’t come out."
Obama extolled new regulations that he said would increase competition among airlines and ensure those airlines are treating customers fairly. They include:
► A rule requiring airlines to refund checked bag fees if their bags are delayed, "because you shouldn’t have to pay extra for a service you don’t even receive," Obama said. The Department of Transportation is still hashing out the details about how late a bag has to be, however.
► A requirement that airlines publish more information about their on-time arrivals and lost baggage. Those regulations will go into effect in 2018.
► More protections for travelers with disabilities, who face obstacles like handicapped-inaccessible bathrooms and in-flight entertainment that doesn't provide adaptions for blind or deaf passengers. But the Department of Transportation is also moving to limit the use of emotional support animals.
► A proposal to require more transparency for online ticket platforms "so sites can’t privilege one airline over another without you knowing about it." Some airlines, including Southwest, don't make fares available for comparison, and the Department of Transportation is seeking comments on whether they should be required to do so.
Airlines oppose many of the new rules, saying that they will interfere with marketing strategies that help them differentiate themselves from the competition.
The U.S. Department of Transportation rolled out the series of rules this week under an Obama executive order pushing agencies to promote more competition in the industries they regulate.
Saturday's radio address was the first time Obama discussed the new rules directly.
"All of this should help you make better decisions for yourselves and your families – and hopefully avoid a few headaches, too," Obama said. "That’s what this is all about – taking steps, big and small, that can make your life a little bit better."