DOT secretary appoints consumer advocates to aviation committee

Transportation Department secretary Pete Buttigieg has replaced two of the four members of the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC). 

The move will likely please consumer advocates, who had chafed that Frances Smith, an adjunct fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank, had served during the Trump administration as the board member representing consumer interests.

Buttigieg has tapped John Breyault to replace Smith. Breyault is the vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League.

Buttigieg also appointed Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healy to the seat representing state governments. 

Healy, who will chair the committee, replaces the former chair, Georgia attorney general Chris Carr.

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In a prepared remark, Healy signaled that she will focus her efforts on consumer protections.  

“I am honored to be appointed state government representative and chair of the ACPAC, and look forward to working with DOT to ensure that air travelers can access the resources they need to stay safe and informed,” she said. 

The committee also includes seats representing airline interests and airport operators. 

Buttigieg reappointed Airlines for America general counsel Patricia Vercelli to the airlines’ seat and Indianapolis Airport Authority executive director Mario Rodriguez to the airports’ seat.

The DOT’s announcement of new committee appointments came pursuant to the sweeping executive order signed by president Joe Biden on July 9 that is designed to promote competition in the American economy. The order laid out several measures to be taken by the federal government related to commercial aviation, including calling for new appointments to the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee within 30 days. 

The committee met just twice between 2018 and 2020 after being reconstituted by former DOT secretary Elaine Chao in 2018. The DOT said it expects the next meeting to be held sometime later this year. 

Buttigieg also announced the creation of the Anti-Discrimination Subcommittee that will report to the ACPAC.The subcommittee will review airlines’ policies, procedures and practices to prevent discrimination against air travelers based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, the DOT said. Subcommittee members have not yet been appointed.

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