Latest updates

DOT provides airline payment flexibility for enforcement penalty during COVID-19 pandemic
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 29 July 2020

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued a consent order assessing a $70,000 civil penalty against Volaris, the Mexican low-cost airline, for alleged violations of the DOT's regulations governing lengthy tarmac delays. The facts of the case and the DOT's rationale for assessing violations did not break new ground, but aspects of the DOT's order may provide insights into how it is approaching enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOT, HHS and DHS issue joint COVID-19 guidance to airlines and airports
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 15 July 2020

The Departments of Transportation, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security recently issued a non-binding guidance document which recommends that airports and airlines implement specific measures to mitigate public health risks associated with COVID-19, prepare for increased travel volume and ensure that aviation safety and security are not compromised.

TSA has legal authority to conduct air passenger temperature screenings
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 10 June 2020

As airlines seek to restore consumer confidence in air travel, they are urging the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to administer temperature screenings of all passengers at TSA airport security checkpoints. Some have questioned whether the TSA has statutory authority to do so. For its part, the TSA appears to have answered that question in the affirmative because it is reportedly preparing to administer temperature checks at more than a dozen US airports.

DOT issues new guidance regarding airlines' obligation to provide passenger refunds
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 27 May 2020

Passengers who no longer wish to travel due to COVID-19 concerns or who have had their flights cancelled are demanding refunds from airlines. Airlines, on the other hand, are grappling with a difficult truth: if they refund all tickets, including those purchased under the condition of being non-refundable or those cancelled by a passenger, this will result in negative cash balances that will lead to bankruptcy.

Trump announces that REAL ID compliance deadline is postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 20 May 2020

President Trump has announced that the US Department of Homeland Security will delay the 1 October 2020 deadline for compliance with the REAL ID Act 2005 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The postponement is welcome news for US airlines and the US travel industry, which had grown increasingly concerned (well before COVID-19) that a significant number of US nationals had not yet obtained a REAL ID.

Considerations when aviation travel is a necessity
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 13 May 2020

Although the idea of aircraft travel may currently be the last thing on many people's minds, for some people, access to aviation travel for business or personal reasons may be necessary even during these difficult times. Moreover, access to business jet travel in lieu of commercial flights will become even more in demand, as commercial airlines reduce the number of available flights, curtail routes or shut down operations altogether.

DOT to impose minimum air service obligations on carriers receiving CARES Act financial assistance
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 13 May 2020

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued an order proposing parameters for implementing the authority granted to the secretary of transportation under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act. The order sets out the DOT's expectations regarding the required service levels. This article provides a summary of the key provisions.

FAA grants airlines relief from airport slot use restrictions due to COVID-19
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 29 April 2020

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that US and foreign carriers that cancel or reduce service at US slot-controlled airports will not forfeit their slots. The FAA is waiving its 80% minimum use requirement for slots at certain US slot-controlled airports until 24 October 2020. Foreign carriers' retention of their slots at US airports is contingent on reciprocity.

Turbulence ahead for airlines under Montreal Convention?
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 22 April 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt be an inspiration to the plaintiffs' bar to seek redress from any and all possible targets arguably responsible for the contracting of the virus, including on behalf of someone who has recently travelled on an international flight. This article analyses the basis for potential legal exposure for international air carriers.

DOT proposes to define 'unfair' and 'deceptive' practices
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 01 April 2020

One of the most significant roles of the Department of Transportation (DOT) is to protect airline consumers from unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition by air carriers and ticket agents. Yet, surprisingly, the key statutory terms 'unfair' and 'deceptive' are not defined in statute and the DOT has never attempted to define them, until now. It is expected that airlines and airline trade groups will support the DOT's proposal, while consumer groups may be more sceptical.

DOT clarifies enforcement policy regarding coronavirus
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 25 March 2020

The Department of Transportation recently issued the Enforcement Notice Regarding Denying Boarding by Airlines of Individuals Suspected of Having Coronavirus. The enforcement notice acknowledges that medical certificates are unlikely to demonstrate whether a passenger is a direct threat, especially as there are no known measures that would prevent transmission of coronavirus in the cabin's closed environment.

Comfort animals are not service animals: DOT to narrow scope of service animal accommodations
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 19 February 2020

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed significant changes to its disability regulations relating to the transportation of service animals by air. The DOT's current regulations require that airlines allow passengers to travel with a wide range of animals in cabin on the basis that they are service animals or emotional support animals. This article sets out the DOT's most significant proposed changes.

Caveat lessor: OFAC fines aircraft lessor for actions of sublessee
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 18 December 2019

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently announced sanctions against Apollo Aviation Group LLC for violation of the then-effective Sudan Sanctions Regulations. The takeaway from the OFAC's Apollo decision is clear: aircraft lessors cannot rely on a boilerplate lease clause to protect them; rather, they must exercise pro-active vigilance over the products that they are leasing out, know their customers and in some cases know their customers' customers.

DOT proposes revisions to airline tarmac delay regulations
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 13 November 2019

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend its regulations governing situations in which an aircraft remains on the airport tarmac without an opportunity for passengers to deplane for an extended period. Specifically, it proposes to change the departure delay exemption, carrier reporting requirements and record retention requirements, among others. Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking must be filed with the DOT by 24 December 2019.

FAA plans to increase rest periods for US airline flight attendants
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 06 November 2019

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun the process of amending its regulations to require that flight attendants at US airlines receive a rest period of at least 10 consecutive hours between periods of duty lasting 14 hours or less. Under the FAA's current regulations, a flight attendant who is scheduled for a duty period of 14 hours or less must be given a scheduled rest period of at least nine consecutive hours. Comments on the advance notice are due by 12 November 2019.

TSA adopts alternative approach to enforcement against airlines and other regulated entities
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 09 October 2019

The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA's) new Action Plan Programme (APP), which recently went into effect, details an alternative framework for addressing security compliance issues. Rather than relying on traditional, penalty-focused civil enforcement action, the APP focuses on achieving a universally desired outcome – namely, increased aviation security. While the APP could prove beneficial to both the TSA and industry, it raises some areas of concern for airlines and other regulated parties.

OFAC issues Iran-Related Civil Aviation Industry Advisory
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 14 August 2019

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently issued its Iran-Related Civil Aviation Industry Advisory. The advisory seeks to inform the civil aviation industry of potential exposure to US enforcement actions and economic sanctions for engaging in or supporting unauthorised exports to Iran or designated Iranian airlines. While no new restrictions have been announced, the advisory's publication could signal that the OFAC is taking a greater interest in the Iranian aviation sector.

No fun in the sun: Trump administration further restricts aviation traffic to Cuba
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 10 July 2019

The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security recently announced rules designed to further restrict travel to Cuba, including eliminating a sub-category of authorised travel to Cuba entitled 'people-to-people educational travel'. These changes significantly restrict non-commercial aviation traffic to Cuba going forward for all persons subject to the OFAC's jurisdiction.

Reflections on Boeing's exposure following 737 MAX crashes
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 08 May 2019

A software issue is suggested to have played a role in the two horrific crashes involving the new Boeing 737 MAX. With this in mind, what potential theories of civil liability could Boeing be subject to by passengers and airlines that have suffered significant losses as a result of what appears to be a design flaw in this software? Further, what theories allow for criminal liability?

DOT denies petitions to initiate consumer protection rulemakings
Cozen O'Connor
  • USA
  • 03 April 2019

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently denied three petitions to initiate rulemakings on various consumer protection issues proposed by FlyersRights, a consumer advocacy group. The DOT's decision to refuse to propose new regulations is consistent with the Trump administration's efforts to reduce regulatory burdens on industry. Nonetheless, the DOT appeared to be sympathetic to consumer protection concerns raised by FlyersRights.

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