[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 212 (Wednesday, November 2, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 76300-76306]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-26181]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Office of the Secretary

14 CFR Parts 234 and 241

[Docket No. DOT-RITA-2011-0001]
RIN 2105-AE41 (formerly 2139-AA13)


Reporting of Data for Mishandled Baggage and Wheelchairs and 
Scooters Transported in Aircraft Cargo Compartments

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary (OST), Department of Transportation 
(DOT).

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Transportation (DOT or Department) is 
issuing a final rule that changes the mishandled-baggage data that air 
carriers are required to report, from the number of Mishandled Baggage 
Reports (MBR) and the number of domestic passenger enplanements to the 
number of mishandled bags and the number of enplaned bags. Fees for 
checked baggage may have changed customer behavior regarding the number 
of bags checked, potentially affecting mishandled-baggage rates. 
Finally, this rule fills a data gap by collecting separate statistics 
for mishandled wheelchairs and scooters used by passengers with 
disabilities and transported in aircraft cargo compartments. An 
additional topic covered in the proposed rule, the reporting of airline 
fee revenues, remains open and is not addressed in this rulemaking.

DATES: This rule is effective December 2, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Zeenat Iqbal, Office of the Assistant 
General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, U.S. 
Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., Washington, DC 
20590, 202-366-9293 (phone), 202-366-5944 (fax), [email protected]. 
You may also contact Blane A. Workie, Assistant General Counsel for 
Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, Department of Transportation, 
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., Washington, DC 20590, 202-366-9342 (phone), 
202-366-7152 (fax), [email protected]. TTY users may reach these 
individuals via the Federal Relay Service toll-free at 800-877-8339. 
You may obtain copies of this notice in an accessible format by 
contacting the above named individuals.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On July 15, 2011, the Department published a notice of proposed 
rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register, 76 FR 41726, which addressed 
the following areas: (1) Reporting of ancillary fee revenue; (2) data 
for computation of mishandled-baggage rates; and (3) data for 
mishandled wheelchairs and scooters used by passengers with 
disabilities that are transported in the cargo compartment. With regard 
to the reporting of ancillary fee revenue, the Department proposed to 
collect detailed information about ancillary fees paid by airline 
consumers to determine the total amount of fees carriers collect 
through the a la carte pricing approach for optional services related 
to air transportation. The Department also proposed to alter its matrix 
for collecting and publishing data on mishandled baggage. For many 
years the Department has required the larger U.S. air carriers to 
report the number of Mishandled Baggage Reports (MBRs) filed by 
passengers and the total number of passenger enplaned. The Department 
then divides the number of MBRs (the numerator) by the total number of 
passengers enplaned (the denominator) and multiplies the result by 
1,000 in order to arrive at a rate of MBRs per 1,000 passengers which 
it publishes in its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report. For example, if 
an airline reports 800 MBRs and 600,000 passengers enplaned, that 
carrier will have a published rate of 1.3 MBRs per 1,000 passenger 
enplanements. In the NPRM, rather than compute the number of Mishandled 
Baggage Reports per unit of domestic enplanements the Department 
proposed using the number of mishandled bags per unit of total bags 
checked. As noted in the NPRM,

[[Page 76301]]

passenger behavior was altered regarding the unit of bags checked when 
many air carriers began charging passengers for each bag that they 
check. We believe that airline passengers would have better information 
to compare airline services if the matrix for mishandled baggage were 
changed to the number of the actual mishandled bags per unit of checked 
bags rather than the number of Mishandled Baggage Reports filed by 
passengers per unit of domestic scheduled-service passenger 
enplanements. As explained below in greater detail, although the NPRM 
proposed to require carriers to report the total number of ``checked 
bags,'' in this final rule we are clarifying this term to mean the 
total number of ``checked bags enplaned.'' Consequently, a one-way 
connecting passenger would have his or her checked bag counted each 
time the bag was enplaned--i.e., at the origin point and at the 
connecting point. This is consistent with the manner in which the 
existing rule requires the total number of passengers enplaned to be 
reported. Finally, the Department proposed to collect information 
regarding damage, delay or loss of wheelchairs and scooters transported 
in the aircraft cargo compartment.
    The Department received 278 comments in response to the NPRM, 
including several representing the views of multiple entities. Of 
these, eight comments were from members of the airline industry, 
representing the views of Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air 
Lines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Air Lines, US 
Airways, and Virgin America. Six comments were from industry 
associations, representing the views of Airports Council International, 
North America (ACI-NA), the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) 
[now known as Airlines For America (A4A)], the American Aviation 
Institute (AAI), the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), the 
Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA), and the Regional Airline 
Association (RAA). The Department received two comments from 
FlyersRights.org and 260 comments from individuals, including 219 from 
members of FlyersRights.org. Other consumer and disability 
associations, including Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of 
America, Consumers Union, the Consumer Travel Alliance, the National 
Consumers League, the Open Doors Foundation, and the Paralyzed Veterans 
of America submitted comments.
    On April 27, 2012, the Department published a notice of public 
meeting in the Federal Register, 77 FR 25105, listing a series of 
questions that the Department intended to pose to the public in order 
to receive input on the costs and benefits associated with the 
proposals outlined in the July 15, 2011, NPRM. This public meeting was 
held at the Department's headquarters on May 17, 2012. Attendees 
provided the Department with oral comments, a transcript of which is 
available in the public docket. Subsequent to the public meeting, 
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and US Airways submitted additional 
written comments.
    In general, consumers, consumer associations, disability 
associations, and airports support the rule as proposed while many 
airlines and airline associations oppose it. The section-by-section 
analysis will describe each provision of the final rule.
    On January 17, 2014, President Obama signed into law the 
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Pub. L. 113-76), which included 
language transferring the powers and duties, functions, authorities and 
personnel of the Department's Research and Innovative Technology 
Administration (RITA) to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for 
Research and Technology (OST-R) in the Department's Office of the 
Secretary. Thus, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and 
Technology is now an office within the Office of the Secretary. Based 
on the Act, this rulemaking received a new regulation identifier 
number.

Comments and Responses

1. Reporting of Ancillary Fee Revenue

    The Department bifurcated its rulemaking on the reporting of 
ancillary fee revenue into two separate rules: this rule to address the 
reporting of data used in the computation of mishandled baggage and 
wheelchair/scooter rates (2104-AE41), and another rule to address the 
reporting of ancillary fee revenue (2105-AE31). These rulemakings were 
split as they address unrelated matters and their separation will make 
it easier for stakeholders to locate information about a particular 
topic embodied in each separate rule. The Department's rulemaking on 
the reporting of ancillary fee revenue, including an analysis of the 
public comments received in response to the 2011 NPRM and 2012 public 
meeting, remains open.

2. Mishandled Baggage

    The NPRM: In the NPRM, the Department proposed changing the 
methodology for reporting mishandled baggage on a domestic system 
basis, excluding charter flights. The rule's proposed text would 
require reporting the number of mishandled bags rather than the number 
of Mishandled Baggage Reports filed by passengers, and the total number 
of domestic checked bags enplaned rather than the number of domestic 
passenger enplanements. As noted above, the Department stated in the 
NPRM that it believes that the current matrix for comparing airline 
mishandled baggage performance is outdated and the proposed changes 
would give airline passengers better information to compare airline 
services. Passenger behavior was altered regarding the number of bags 
checked when many air carriers began charging passengers for each bag 
that they check. Although the Department did not specifically solicit 
comments on alternative methodologies for reporting mishandled baggage, 
comments received from air carriers and their associations led the 
Department to consider alternatives discussed below.
    Comments: Consumers and consumer groups, as well as ACI-NA and one 
carrier, Southwest Airlines, stated that the proposed methodology would 
render more accurate and useful results. The current methodology, these 
comments asserted, compares unrelated numbers since fewer passengers 
currently check bags than when the methodology was devised. Consumer 
groups commented that the Department should capture data regarding the 
number of mishandled bags that were checked at the gate, in addition to 
the number of mishandled bags that were checked at check-in counters 
and self-service bag drop locations.
    On the other hand, A4A (excluding JetBlue and Southwest Airlines), 
RAA, and the carriers that submitted comments, with the exception of 
Southwest Airlines, contend that the Department's long-standing 
methodology for calculating mishandled baggage is useful and valid. 
They commented that the proposed methodology would cost industry more 
than the current methodology. Increased costs would stem primarily from 
recording interlined baggage, gate-checked baggage, and ``valet'' bags. 
(Interlined baggage is checked baggage of a passenger whose itinerary 
does not involve a code-share but includes more than one airline. Gate-
checked baggage is baggage that the passenger brought to the gate but 
which was taken by the carrier at that location and checked into the 
baggage compartment of the aircraft. Valet bags, sometimes called 
planeside bags, are bags that a passenger drops at the end of the 
loading bridge or on the tarmac near the aircraft and which carrier 
personnel load into the baggage compartment of the aircraft, a process

[[Page 76302]]

that is frequently used by regional airlines.) In addition, individual 
carriers commented that the proposed methodology would mislead the 
public, and would benefit Southwest Airlines to the detriment of all 
other carriers, regardless of each carrier's ability to properly handle 
bags. One carrier, US Airways, disagreed with a conclusion in a report 
issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO; report GAO-10-785, 
July 2010) that bag fees had altered consumer behavior by leading them 
to check fewer bags, thus resulting in fewer MBRs. A4A (excluding 
JetBlue and Southwest Airlines) and RAA recommended that should the 
Department deem a change is necessary, the denominator of the rate 
calculation should be the total number of domestic enplaned bags rather 
than origin-and-destination bags. For example, for a passenger with a 
checked bag who is traveling one-way from Denver to Boston with a 
connection (change of planes) in Chicago, a ``total enplaned bags'' 
system would count the bag twice, i.e. when it was enplaned on the 
Denver-Chicago flight and again when it was enplaned on the Chicago-
Boston flight. An ``origin-and-destination'' system would only count 
the bag once, as a bag moving from Denver to Boston regardless of the 
flight or flights that were used.) Southwest Airlines expressed concern 
with using total domestic enplaned bags as the denominator, claiming 
that to do so would benefit hub-and-spoke carriers at the expense of 
point-to-point carriers.
    American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and US Airways commented that 
the Department severely underestimated the cost of complying with the 
proposed rule. They noted for gate-checked and ``valet'' bags, carriers 
would have to replace a manual bag tagging system with an automated 
one. Delta Air Lines stressed the importance of using an automated 
system because less than one hundredth of one percent often separates 
competitors in the Department's mishandled baggage rankings. That 
carrier estimated this would cost up to $10 million in new equipment 
and $900,000 in programming, while requiring 18 to 24 months to fully 
implement. US Airways estimated that automation would cost $1 million 
in new equipment and $1 million in programming. In addition, Delta Air 
Lines commented that the rule would cause operational delays and 
passenger inconvenience because of the time involved in printing and 
then scanning automated bag tags.
    On January 12, 2016, A4A filed supplemental comments. The 
organization objected to language in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 
on Transparency of Airline Ancillary Fees and Other Consumer Issues 
(``Consumer Rule 3'') \1\ that would amend the mishandled baggage 
reporting rule (14 CFR 234.6) to require reports ``for all domestic 
scheduled passenger flight segments that are held out with the 
reporting carrier's code . . . ,'' including flights operated for a 
carrier by its regional-carrier code-share partners. A4A stated that 
the data are not captured by flight segment today and that devising a 
system to do so would be costly and time-consuming. A4A also objected 
to language in that NPRM which the organization said could impede 
``valet'' or ``planeside'' baggage service widely offered by regional 
carriers and would have to be coordinated with the Transportation 
Security Administration (TSA).
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    \1\ 79 FR 29970, May 23, 2014, Docket DOT-OST-2014-0056.
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    Finally, the Department received comments questioning which airline 
must report baggage in interline situations or when multiple airlines 
place their codes on a single flight.
    DOT Response: The Department has decided to require that airlines 
report mishandled baggage in terms of the number of mishandled bags and 
the total number of domestic enplaned bags, excluding charter flights. 
A bag will be counted as ``enplaned'' on each flight of a passenger's 
journey. For example, if a passenger were traveling one-way from Denver 
to Boston with a connection in Chicago from one flight to another, the 
bag will be counted twice (once for each flight). Consistent with this 
approach, if that passenger were instead traveling on a direct flight 
from Denver to Boston with an intermediate stop in Chicago but no 
change of planes, the bag would be counted only once--when it was 
enplaned in Denver.
    Passenger behavior was reportedly altered when many air carriers 
began charging passengers for each checked bag. Specifically, the GAO 
report cited above stated that the introduction of baggage fees 
resulted in a decline of 40 to 50 percent in the number of checked bags 
with a corresponding 40 percent decline in the number of MBRs per 1,000 
passengers (GAO-10-785, July 2010, page 25). The ratio between checked 
bags and the number of passengers can vary greatly depending on the 
fees charged. Moreover, there is not a direct relationship between the 
number of MBRs and the number of mishandled (i.e., lost, stolen, 
delayed, damaged, and pilfered) bags because a single MBR could be 
submitted by a family--or even an individual--with multiple mishandled 
bags. In addition, the Department has decided to include in its revised 
mishandled baggage methodology all checked bags, including those 
checked at the gate and ``valet'' bags. As the GAO noted, as the amount 
of checked baggage has decreased, the amount of carry-on baggage has 
increased, resulting in airlines' having to check more bags at the 
gate. The Department believes that the new methodology in this rule 
will better inform passengers of their chances to retrieve their gate-
checked baggage in an acceptable and timely manner.
    The Department agrees with the suggestion from A4A (excluding 
JetBlue and Southwest Airlines) and RAA that the Department use the 
number of domestic bag enplanements rather than origin-and-destination 
bags in the denominator. We have revised the language of the relevant 
section accordingly. Using the enplaned-bag approach will avoid the 
costs that would be entailed for tracking a given bag from origin to 
destination for connecting passengers under an origin-and-destination 
approach. The use of ``enplaned bag'' language in the final rule also 
results in a carrier receiving ``credit'' for a properly-handled bag on 
each flight of a passenger's journey. This ensures that when bags 
travel on multi-carrier itineraries or when interline agreements allow 
carriers to check bags through to the passenger's final destination, 
even when that passenger possesses more than one ticket, the operating 
carrier on each flight will receive ``credit'' for a properly-handled 
bag. For example, if a passenger travels on a flight operated by 
airline A from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, and a flight operated by 
airline B from Los Angeles to Honolulu, for the ``denominator'' figure 
airline A would include the passenger's checked baggage in its 
reporting for the Washington--Los Angeles flight while airline B would 
include the passenger's checked baggage in its reporting for the Los 
Angeles--Honolulu flight. The same piece of luggage would be reported 
by both airlines (on different flights), thus giving both airlines the 
chance to receive ``credit'' for handling the bag. Whether or not 
airlines A and B operate one or both of those flights as part of a 
code-share or as part of an interline agreement would have no impact on 
their reporting requirements. In the comments received from A4A 
(excluding JetBlue and Southwest) and RAA, the associations noted that 
the ``enplanement'' approach would resolve much of the complexity 
stemming from

[[Page 76303]]

interlining, gate checking, and ``valet'' bag situations. Thus, the 
Department believes that adopting the suggested methodology of A4A 
(excluding JetBlue and Southwest) and RAA will result in lower 
compliance costs for air carriers.
    Using the total number of domestic bag enplanements rather than 
bags checked for origin-destination trips further reduces the rule's 
cost because air carriers already count pieces of checked baggage in 
order to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) 
existing weight-and-balance requirements. The FAA requires that 
carriers maintain, for at least three months, the number of 
``standard,'' ``heavy,'' and ``non-luggage'' bags carried in the cargo 
compartment. Delta Air Lines confirmed at the May 17, 2012, public 
meeting that, because of the FAA requirements, the carrier already 
possesses a tally of bags transported in the cargo compartment on each 
of its domestic scheduled flights.
    With respect to A4A's January 12, 2016, supplemental comments, the 
language in the ``Consumer Rule 3'' NPRM concerning reporting by flight 
segment referred to a separate proposal in that proceeding that would 
require carrier reports about on-time performance, oversales, and 
mishandled baggage to include data for flights operated by their 
domestic code-share partners. The phrase ``for all domestic scheduled 
passenger flight segments that are held out with the reporting 
carrier's code'' in that NPRM was simply intended to capture the code-
share operations, not to require reporting by flight segment. If this 
Consumer Rule 3 proposal is finalized, we will modify the phrase in 
question to make this clear. This final rule simply requires carriers 
to count the number of checked bags that are enplaned on each flight; 
it does not require carriers to conduct segment-by-segment tracking of 
the number of bags on board each segment of a direct flight, nor does 
it require origin-destination (``O&D'') tracking based on each 
passenger's itinerary.
    A4A also contended in its January 12, 2016, comments that in order 
to comply with the instant rule as proposed, the only realistic 
solution for most carriers is to begin tracking ``valet bags'' in the 
same way that all other checked bags are tracked today--with an 
automated bag tag (ABT) that is linked to the passenger's Passenger 
Name Record, rather than the existing paper valet tags. A4A further 
asserted that once a bag is tagged with an ABT, TSA requires it to be 
treated like all other checked baggage and prohibits the traveler from 
having access to it in the sterile area of the airport. A4A stated that 
this means that carriers could no longer return these bags to 
passengers on the jet bridge at the conclusion of the flight. However, 
the rule does not require the use of ABTs. In addition, TSA has advised 
the Department that TSA's interest is in ensuring that passengers do 
not have access in the secure area of an airport to a checked bag that 
has not passed through the passenger security screening checkpoint. 
Valet bags are screened at that checkpoint. TSA explained that 
attaching an ABT to a bag that the passenger has carried through the 
screening checkpoint, or referring to such a bag as a checked bag, 
would not trigger the prohibition on the passenger having access to 
that bag in the airport's secure area.
    The Department is not prescribing a particular mechanism through 
which air carriers must capture the data required by this rule. 
Carriers may adopt whichever method they find best suited to their 
business model. In terms of ``valet'' bags, for example, this rule does 
not require air carriers to provide passengers with individual bag 
claims that must be matched to bags on arrival; instead, air carriers 
need only ensure that the ``valet'' bag is properly counted in the data 
reported to the Department.
    Finally, the Department has made a ministerial change to its 
proposed rule. In its NPRM, the Department cited ``49 U.S.C. 329 and 
chapters 41101 and 41701'' as the authority for the mishandled baggage 
portion of the rule. The correct citation is: ``49 U.S.C. 329, 41101 
and 41701.''

3. Data for Wheelchairs and Scooters Transported in Aircraft Cargo 
Compartments

A. Reporting Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters Transported in the 
Cargo Compartment
    The NPRM: The Department proposed requiring carriers to report the 
number of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters and the total number of 
wheelchairs/scooters transported in the aircraft cargo compartment. The 
Department sought public comment to better understand the scope of this 
issue and whether the prospect of loss, damage or delay of such devices 
or the lack of data made consumers with disabilities reluctant to 
travel by air.
    Comments: In general, consumers voiced support for the proposal to 
require air carriers to break out data on the number of mishandled 
wheelchairs and scooters transported in the aircraft cargo compartment, 
maintaining that such reporting would reduce the number of incidents, 
while providing passengers with disabilities with a metric for making 
better-informed travel decisions. The Paralyzed Veterans of America and 
the Consumer Travel Alliance made similar supportive comments, noting 
that their members frequently request this currently-unavailable data, 
although the former group did request that the Department define 
``mishandled'' in its regulation. ACI-NA commented that the proposed 
rule will increase accessibility of airports in general because 
passengers will know more about the air travel experience.
    On the other hand, A4A (excluding Southwest Airlines) and RAA 
commented that the Department had no basis for concluding that 
passengers with disabilities are reluctant to travel by air due to 
wheelchair mishandling, and that the proposal lacked a public policy 
justification. Several air carriers asserted that the Air Carrier 
Access Act and its implementing regulation (14 CFR part 382) already 
provide carriers with an incentive to handle these devices properly. 
The associations, individual airlines, and ARTA commented that the 
proposed rule was unduly burdensome on industry. In particular, these 
comments noted that wheelchairs and scooters are manually tagged and 
checked, and thus air carriers would need to implement a new mechanism 
to capture the required data. In written comments, American Airlines 
and Delta Air Lines commented that there would be high costs involved 
in programming systems to differentiate wheelchairs and scooters 
transported in the cargo compartment from the larger universe of all 
checked baggage. At the May 17, 2012, public meeting, US Airways stated 
that costs would be high, while others, including Delta Air Lines and 
Southwest Airlines, indicated the opposite. As an alternative to the 
Department's proposal, several carriers proposed the establishment of a 
working group to devise a workable method of capturing the required 
data.
    The Open Doors Foundation did not support the proposed rule. This 
organization commented that collecting this data would lead to 
competition among carriers in an area that should not be competitive, 
would cause airlines to reduce training and policies to the bare 
minimum needed to obtain ``good'' numbers, and would divert Department 
resources from other projects intended to make air travel more 
accessible.
    Although A4A's comments opposing the Department's proposal 
represented the views of all of that association's members except 
Southwest Airlines, US Airways filed a supplemental comment

[[Page 76304]]

after the May 17, 2012, public meeting in which it indicated that it 
did not object to the Department's proposal to require carriers to 
report the number of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters transported in 
the aircraft cargo compartment. US Airways commented that it would need 
one year to update software to distinguish wheelchairs and scooters 
from other checked baggage and that it should have the option of 
stowing some assistive devices in the passenger cabin.
    DOT Response: The Department has decided to require carriers to 
report the number of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters and the number 
of wheelchairs/scooters accepted for transport in the aircraft cargo 
compartment. The Department's applicable definition of ``mishandled'' 
is found at 14 CFR 234.1, which defines ``mishandled'' as ``loss, 
delay, damage, or pilferage.'' When issuing its NPRM, the Department 
intended for the same definition to apply to mishandled wheelchairs and 
scooters. The Department agrees with the many comments received from 
the public and disability rights groups that this rule will make air 
travel more accessible as it will provide the traveling public with the 
data necessary to make informed travel decisions.
    The number of wheelchairs and scooters accepted for transport in 
the aircraft cargo compartment is to be included in the total number of 
checked bags enplaned. Similarly, the number of mishandled wheelchairs 
and scooters is to be included in the number of mishandled checked 
bags. We believe that the number of mishandled bags (and the rate of 
mishandled bags per 1,000 bags enplaned, which will be calculated by 
DOT and included in our Air Travel Consumer Report) should include all 
items of which the carrier took custody.
    In response to comments from industry that there is no basis to 
conclude that passengers with disabilities are reluctant to travel by 
air due to wheelchair and scooter mishandling, the Department believes 
that the public comments received from air travelers with disabilities 
and disability rights organizations are representative of a widespread 
reluctance. It is public policy that air travel should be accessible to 
all members of the public, and the Department believes that this rule 
advances that policy goal. The Department appreciates that the Air 
Carrier Access Act and 14 CFR part 382 have provided air carriers with 
an incentive to handle wheelchairs and scooters properly. The 
Department believes that this final rule will not only act as an 
additional incentive, but most importantly will provide passengers with 
disabilities with a metric that they may use to compare air carriers 
and to make informed travel decisions. The Department agrees with US 
Airways' comment that capturing data on the incidence of wheelchair and 
scooter mishandling is in line with a carrier's obligations and duties 
to passengers with disabilities.
    The Department appreciates the concerns raised by Open Doors. While 
we believe that air carriers do strive to provide good service to 
passengers with disabilities, we continue to think that consumers with 
disabilities have the right to know which airlines provide the best 
service and have a right to select their air carriers based on that 
knowledge. In addition, the Department's existing disability 
regulations already require airlines to provide training to their 
employees. The new rule provides further incentive to airlines to 
provide the training necessary to result in as little mishandling as 
possible to wheelchairs and scooters. Finally, this rulemaking does not 
divert the Department's attention from other objectives, e.g., issuing 
rules requiring accessible in-flight entertainment systems, but instead 
provides passengers with mobility impairments, who represent a large 
segment of the population of travelers with disabilities, with 
information they deserve and need to make informed travel decisions.
B. Extension of the Rule to Other Assistive Devices and/or Devices 
Transported in the Passenger Cabin
    The NPRM: The Department solicited comments on whether the rule 
should be extended to all wheelchairs and scooters, regardless of 
whether they are transported in the passenger cabin or in the cargo 
compartment, and whether the rule should apply to other mobility 
devices, e.g., walkers.
    Comments: Many consumers and disability rights organizations 
commented that the Department should extend the rule in this manner. 
These comments generally relied on the same rationale as for their 
support of the proposed reporting requirement for mishandled 
wheelchairs and scooters transported in the cargo compartment; namely, 
that the number of mishandled assistive devices will be reduced and 
consumers with disabilities will have data necessary to make better-
informed travel decisions. The Paralyzed Veterans of America further 
recommended that this rule be applied to foreign air carriers and a 
member of the public recommended that this rule be applied to other 
modes of transportation. Many air carriers commented that capturing 
data on mishandled wheelchairs and scooters transported in the 
passenger cabin would prove unworkable since no data is kept about 
items transported in the cabin. US Airways commented that it would not 
oppose an extension of the rule to other mobility devices so long as 
the Department explicitly listed which mobility devices were covered by 
the rule, and so long as the Department explicitly excluded mobility 
devices not used by passengers with disabilities.
    Members of the public made numerous recommendations intended to 
improve the air travel experience for passengers with disabilities. 
These recommendations included the creation of a uniform damage form, a 
requirement that air carriers maintain a list of repair shops located 
near each airport served, a blanket exemption from all ancillary fees 
for passengers with disabilities, a mandated retrofitting of aircraft 
so that all mobility devices may be transported in the passenger cabin, 
and a prohibition on the gate-checking of assistive devices.
    DOT Response: The Department believes that requiring the reporting 
of data on the mishandling of all assistive devices, particularly those 
transported in the passenger cabin, is impracticable. The Department 
understands that airlines do not have a mechanism for tracking items 
carried in the passenger cabin. Further, wheelchairs and scooters are 
generally checked as single items, while other assistive devices are 
generally stored inside baggage. Requiring the reporting of data on 
assistive devices stored inside checked baggage would require 
passengers and airlines to inventory such baggage. As a result, the 
Department will require that carriers report data only on scooters and 
wheelchairs.
    The Department appreciates the additional recommendations received 
from the general public, including the application of this rule to 
cover other modes or to foreign air carriers, but concludes that these 
recommendations fall outside the scope of the current rulemaking.

4. Compliance Date

    The NPRM: The Department did not propose a specific compliance 
date.
    Comments: None of the public comments received prior to the May 17, 
2012, public meeting related to the compliance date of this rule. 
During the public meeting and in subsequent public comments, most air 
carriers commented that they would need 12 to 24 months after the final 
rule is published in the Federal Register to

[[Page 76305]]

comply because of time necessary for re-programming existing systems, 
installing new equipment, and training employees. In addition, Delta 
Air Lines and US Airways commented that a compliance date of January 1 
would be preferable because it would provide the clearest demarcation 
between data sets.
    DOT Response: The Department has determined that air carriers must 
comply with the new reporting requirements for air transportation 
taking place on or after January 1, 2018. The Department agrees with 
Delta Air Lines and US Airways that a January 1 compliance date 
provides a clear demarcation between data sets, corresponding with a 
change in the type of data reported by air carriers. In particular, 
given that this rule significantly changes the mishandled baggage 
metric, choosing the first day of the year as the compliance date will 
make future year-over-year comparisons more meaningful. In addition, 
the selection of this compliance date provides air carriers with 
adequate time to update their internal systems and reporting processes.
    Based on this compliance date, data in this new format on 
mishandled baggage for the month of January 2018 will be due February 
15, 2018. Data on mishandled wheelchairs and scooters transported in 
aircraft cargo compartments for the month of January 2018 will also be 
due February 15, 2018.

Regulatory Analyses and Notices

A. Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review) and DOT 
Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    This action has been determined not to be significant under 
Executive Order 12866 and the Department of Transportation's Regulatory 
Policies and Procedures. It has not been reviewed by the Office of 
Management and Budget. These changes make the measure of the published 
mishandled baggage rate more informative for ticket purchasers trying 
to assess risk. The new metric of number of bags reported as mishandled 
reveals more than the old figure of the number of reports of mishandled 
bags, since a single passenger report can cover multiple bags or even 
multiple passengers (e.g., several members of a family). Also, the 
number of enplaned checked bags is more helpful than the number of 
passengers, particularly given that the ratio of checked bags to 
passengers will tend to vary among carriers depending on their baggage 
allowances and fees. With purchasers better informed on the comparative 
performance of different carriers, competition among airlines should 
sharpen and performance in baggage handling can be expected to improve. 
As for reporting of wheelchairs and scooters, making information 
available to the public on each carrier's performance on handling 
wheelchairs and scooters would enable passengers with disabilities to 
make better decisions about which carrier to fly. Comments submitted in 
this rulemaking from air travelers with disabilities and disability 
rights organizations suggest that fear of the airlines damaging or 
losing wheelchairs and scooters creates a reluctance to fly among those 
dependent on these devices. The expected present value of costs 
incurred by carriers to comply with the final rule over a 10 year 
period using a 7% discount rate is estimated at $2,064,588 and using a 
3% discount rate is estimated at $2,483,436. The final Regulatory 
Evaluation has concluded that the benefits of the final rule justify 
its costs. A copy of the final Regulatory Evaluation has been placed in 
the docket.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) requires an 
agency to review regulations to assess their impact on small entities 
unless the agency determines that a rule is not expected to have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
DOT defines small carriers based on the standard published in 14 CFR 
399.73 as carriers that provide air transportation exclusively with 
aircraft that seat no more than 60 passengers. No small U.S. air 
carriers are affected by these requirements, as they apply only to the 
``reporting carriers,'' i.e., U.S. carriers that account for at least 1 
percent of domestic scheduled passenger revenue. No small carriers as 
defined in 14 CFR 399.73 are included in this group. On the basis of 
this examination, I hereby certify that this rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

C. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism)

    This final rule has been analyzed in accordance with the principles 
and criteria contained in Executive Order 13132 (``Federalism''). This 
final rule does not include any provision that: (1) Has substantial 
direct effects on the States, the relationship between the national 
government and the States, or the distribution of power and 
responsibility among the various levels of government; (2) imposes 
substantial direct compliance costs on State and local governments; or 
(3) preempts State law. States are already preempted from regulating in 
this area by the Airline Deregulation Act, 49 U.S.C. 41713. Therefore, 
the consultation and funding requirements of Executive Order 13132 do 
not apply.

D. Executive Order 13084

    This final rule has been analyzed in accordance with the principles 
and criteria contained in Executive Order 13084 (``Consultation and 
Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments''). Because this final rule 
does not significantly or uniquely affect the communities of the Indian 
Tribal governments or impose substantial direct compliance costs on 
them, the funding and consultation requirements of Executive Order 
13084 do not apply.

E. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule adopts new and revised information collection 
requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). The 
Department will publish a separate notice in the Federal Register 
inviting the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the general public, 
and other Federal agencies to comment on the new and revised 
information collection requirements contained in this document. As 
prescribed by the PRA, the requirements will not go into effect until 
OMB has approved them and the Department has published a notice 
announcing the effective date of the information collection 
requirements.

F. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    The Department has determined that the requirements of Title II of 
the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 do not apply to this rule.

G. National Environmental Policy Act

    The Department has analyzed the environmental impacts of this 
proposed action pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and has determined that it is 
categorically excluded pursuant to DOT Order 5610.1C, Procedures for 
Considering Environmental Impacts (44 FR 56420, Oct. 1, 1979). 
Categorical exclusions are actions identified in an agency's NEPA 
implementing procedures that do not normally have a significant impact 
on the environment and therefore do not require either an environmental 
assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS). See 40 CFR 
1508.4. In analyzing the applicability of a categorical exclusion, the 
agency must also consider whether extraordinary circumstances are 
present that would warrant the preparation of an EA or EIS. Id. 
Paragraph 3.c.6.i of DOT Order 5610.1C categorically excludes 
``[a]ctions relating to consumer

[[Page 76306]]

protection, including regulations.'' The purpose of this rulemaking is 
to change the way in which air carriers report mishandled baggage to 
the Department and fill a data gap by collecting separate statistics 
for mishandled wheelchairs and scooters used by passengers with 
disabilities and transported in aircraft cargo compartments. The 
Department does not anticipate any environmental impacts, and there are 
no extraordinary circumstances present in connection with this 
rulemaking.

    Issued this 18th day of October, 2016, in Washington, DC.
 Anthony R. Foxx,
Secretary of Transportation.

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 234

    Air carriers, Mishandled baggage, On-time statistics, Reporting, 
Uniform system of accounts.

    Accordingly, the Department of Transportation amends 14 CFR chapter 
II as follows:

PART 234--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 234 is revised to read as follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 329, 41101, and 41701.

0
2. Section 234.2 is amended by adding the definition of ``Mishandled 
checked bag'' in alphabetical order, to read as follows:


Sec.  234.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Mishandled checked bag means a checked bag that is lost, delayed, 
damaged or pilfered, as reported to a carrier by or on behalf of a 
passenger.
* * * * *

0
3. Section 234.6 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  234.6  Baggage-handling statistics.

    (a) For air transportation taking place before January 1, 2018, 
each reporting carrier shall report monthly to the Department on a 
domestic system basis, excluding charter flights, the total number of 
passengers enplaned system-wide and the total number of mishandled-
baggage reports filed with the carrier.
    (b) For air transportation taking place on or after January 1, 
2018, each reporting carrier shall report monthly to the Department on 
a domestic system basis, excluding charter flights:
    (1) The total number of checked bags enplaned, including gate 
checked baggage, ``valet bags,'' interlined bags, and wheelchairs and 
scooters enplaned in the aircraft cargo compartment;
    (2) The total number of wheelchairs and scooters that were enplaned 
in the aircraft cargo compartment;
    (3) The number of mishandled checked bags, including gate-checked 
baggage, ``valet bags,'' interlined bags and wheelchairs and scooters 
that were enplaned in the aircraft cargo compartment; and
    (4) The number of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters that were 
enplaned in the aircraft cargo compartment.
    (c) The information in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section shall 
be submitted to the Department within 15 days after the end of the 
month to which the information applies and must be submitted with the 
transmittal accompanying the data for on-time performance in the form 
and manner set forth in accounting and reporting directives issued by 
the Director, Office of Airline Information.

[FR Doc. 2016-26181 Filed 11-1-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-9X-P