Before we embark on what is sure to be an eventful 2015 in the business travel industry, I wanted to take a moment to both reflect on the critical advocacy issues of 2014 and let you know the next steps in the process of setting our agenda for the coming year.
Last year, both new and familiar issues kept us highly engaged as we fought against cellphones on planes, pushed back against unnecessary taxes on travelers, fought for a more efficient Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and implemented better airline customer protections.
The Legislative Symposium in June saw more than 100 GBTA members – backed up by thousands of letters, emails and district meetings from the GBTA Chapter Challenge – hit the Hill running in opposition to a potentially large increase of taxes on the business traveler. The House of Representatives unanimously agreed to GBTA’s argument and voted to stop TSA from removing the cap on charges related to the 9/11 Aviation Security Fee. In December, the Senate also voted to unanimously pass H.R. 5462, reinstating a cap on TSA security fees at $11.20 per round trip instead of the potential $30.00 tax.
While GBTA is a strong supporter of TSA’s improvement of its screening programs, GBTA has often cited the need for TSA to reform its practices in lieu of increasing taxes and fees on the traveling public. Congress agreed, passing several bills at the end of the year including the before-mentioned cap reinstatement, a bill to transform TSA’s technology acquisition processes and a bill to permanently establish the private sector advisory board – the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC). Note: GBTA has been appointed to two consecutive terms on this important Committee.
GBTA listened to you, our members, when you said that silence is golden when it comes to cell phones on airplanes. GBTA warned of the possible security threat from allowing expanded broadband access and voice calls on planes and will continue this fight with the FCC and in the halls of Congress in 2015.
Congress ended the year 2014 by passing a bill to keep the U.S. Government open for business. However, we will need to remain vigilant and vocal in opposition to using travel as a pawn in the fight over funding for the Department of Homeland Security due to the President’s Executive Order on Immigration.
Tomorrow, on January 15, our Government Relations Committee will meet to finalize our policy and legislative agenda for the year as GBTA continues to advocate for the business travel industry. Among many issues, we are following hotel industry developments including limiting Wi-Fi access and variable cancellation policies and airline issues including open skies, passenger protection, increased taxes on passengers, ancillary fees and fuel surcharges. Ground transportation duty of care issues will also play a prominent role in our discussions.
Advocacy is not a destination, but a continuous journey. If there is an issue important to you, please let Shane Downey – GBTA’s Director of Public Policy, the Government Relations Committee or myself know. Many new issues will surface throughout the year and we want to ensure we are keeping you and the industry informed of the latest developments as we work on your behalf.
And, as always, thank you for your interest and support for our great industry!
*This post was also sent as an email to GBTA members.*