Consumer group applauds launch of DOT investigation of 737 MAX safety

March 20, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) today applauded the Department of Transportation (DOT) decision to initiate an investigation of the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 series of aircraft. In the wake of two deadly accidents involving the aircraft in less than six months, this investigation is urgently needed to protect the safety of the flying public.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud:

“The safety of the millions of consumers who fly every year should be the highest priority of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The flying public’s faith in the agency has been badly shaken by two deadly crashes and media reports of other near-misses involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8. By initiating an investigation of the FAA’s certification of the aircraft, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao is reasserting the leadership that has made U.S. airspace one of the safest places to fly in the world.

“The investigation ordered by Secretary Chao appears to be limited to the process used to certify the 737 MAX 8. We urge the DOT not to limit its investigation to one category or model of aircraft. Instead, the Department should conduct a comprehensive review of its 2005 decision to outsource aircraft safety certification to the very manufacturers who stand to reap billions of dollars in profits from regulatory approval of their aircrafts’ airworthiness. The flying public must be assured that its safety in the air has not been compromised by the profit motives of aircraft manufacturers and their airline customers.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Consumer group welcomes grounding of 737 MAX 8 fleet, urges U.S. airlines to waive cancellation fees to mitigate impact on flying public

March 14, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – Within months of each other, two new Boeing 737 MAX 8s crashed minutes after take-off, causing the deaths of 346 passengers and crew. Wednesday, following the lead of regulators in more than 45 countries, the Trump Administration ordered the grounding of all 737 MAX 8s in service in the United States. This is a common-sense step that will help protect the flying public while the Federal Aviation Administration investigates the safety of the 737 MAX 8 fleet.

The grounding of all 737 MAX 8s will likely lead to significant schedule disruptions and cancellations for consumers who were scheduled to fly on routes using those aircrafts. NCL is calling on U.S. airlines to waive any cancellation or change fees that may be incurred by consumers whose travel plans are affected and who need to book new flights.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League:

“In the wake of two fatal 737 MAX 8 crashes, the Trump Administration took the right step to ensure that the flying public is not put at unnecessary risk. Until it can be conclusively determined that all Boeing 737 MAX 8s are safe, the Federal Aviation Administration should keep these planes on the ground. American lives are far too valuable to risk in the name of airlines’ and Boeing’s profits.

Unfortunately, this move will likely significantly inconvenience customers and may require rebooking on alternate flights. In a normal environment, customers needing to make such changes would incur outrageous $250 change fees or other cancellation penalties. We call on all airlines whose flights are affected to waive change and cancellation fees or other penalties for any passenger that needs to rebook on a different flight.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

European Union’s scheme for airline passengers’ rights – National Consumers League

SG-headshot.jpgIn September 2015, I arrived at JFK airport in New York at 10:30 am for a quick flight to Washington, DC. I had a full day of meetings and was eager to get to the office. To my unpleasant surprise, I ended up arriving home at 6:00 pm. Weather was not a factor for the lengthy delays because the weather conditions were perfect in both DC and New York. Ultimately, American Airlines (AA) noted that it was their own mechanical and crew problems that caused the full day of delays. But, AA did not offer any passengers a dime of compensation for wasting their entire day. This seemed so wrong to me that it sparked my interest in what other countries provide for airline passengers’ rights.The National Consumers League (NCL) is advocating to expand airline passengers’ rights so that consumers are fairly compensated after they are wronged. So while in Brussels this week attending the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TADCD), I jumped at the chance to meet with the EU’s head of airline passenger rights when a European colleague offered to set up an impromptu meeting.

Alisa Tiganj, a Member of the Cabinet of the Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, who is responsible for overseeing airline passenger rights, was kind enough to welcome me and spend a few minutes discussing the EU scheme.[1] In the US, we have few, if any, passenger compensation obligations for flights that are canceled or delayed, even when the airline is at fault.[2]  By the way, a total of 632 million passengers boarded domestic flights in the United States in the year 2010.  This averages to 1.73 million passengers flying per day.[3] 750 million people used EU airports in 2009.[4]

NCL would like to see that changed along the lines of what the EU provides.

The EU is made up of 28 member states with a population of 508 million.  We in the US, have a population of 300 million.  If you are a citizen of the EU flying on a European airline and your flight is delayed for more than three hours—or if it is canceled—you’re entitled to compensation. I should add that there are of course “extraordinary circumstances” where no compensation is guaranteed if the fault lies with weather or other force majeure. The general schedule for passenger compensation for delayed or canceled flights is below:

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres
  • EUR 600 for all other flights

The rules also state, “Compensation shall be paid in cash, at the passenger’s bank account, by bank transfer or by check…. The right to assistance also applies to passengers who face long delays.” The right to assistance means that the carrier should offer these items below for free:

  • Meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time
  • Hotel accommodation for overnight stay if necessary
  • Transport between accommodation and airport
  • Two free telephone calls or to send two telex, fax, or e-mail messages

The latest rules were developed and adopted in 2013. Not surprisingly, the European airlines are fighting passenger claims and challenging the interpretation of the rules in court. But meanwhile, EU consumers are being compensated. All they must do is apply for compensation through an online form. The process is not onerous.

If airlines have to pay serious compensation for delaying and canceling flights, they will try harder to find a way to get passengers to their destination more efficiently. Right now, American carriers know they can do whatever they want—even keep someone waiting all day—and passengers are left without recourse. That’s a dangerous imbalance in rights and protections and NCL believes that needs to change.