HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE U.S DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

US Department of Transportation

Undisputed Legal |District of Columbia Process Service

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT) is a United States federal Cabinet department responsible for transportation. It was created on October 15th, 1966, by the Department of Transportation Act of Congress and started operations on April 1st, 1967. DOT is headed by the Secretary of Transportation. Once established in 1967, the Department of Transportation immediately became the fifth-largest department in the federal government.

Whether roadways, airways or even railroads, the Department of Transportation plans for the transportation of the nation. Regarding on-ground transportation, state and municipal governments play a significant role in the development of new highways and the operation of public transit networks.

 BACKGROUND

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is a federal cabinet-level department charged with assisting in the maintenance and development of the nation’s transportation networks and infrastructure.  Prior to the establishment of the Department of Transportation, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation was responsible for the obligations currently associated with the DOT. 

 The Department of Transportation is a critical element when it comes to giving money to lower levels of government. The department is responsible for making federal funds available every year to state and local governments to assist in the improvement of transportation systems across the nation.

With regard to air travel, the Department of Transportation plays a much more active role, regulating commercial airlines and airports in an attempt to encourage the sector while also ensuring passenger safety. Department of Transportation has received the greatest criticism for its management of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The Department of Transportation (DOT) creates, administers, and enforces federal rules regulating the use of America’s roads and highways, airports and air corridors, railroads, and seaports. 

LEVELS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

  1. Federal Aviation Administration:  The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for overseeing the commercial aviation sector in the United States on behalf of the Department of Transportation. As the airline industry’s principal regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration keeps extensive records on the rules and standards that businesses must observe as necessary to carry passengers. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration establishes regulations governing airport operations and pilots.
    The Federal Aviation Administration is also responsible for the nation’s air traffic control system, which guides commercial, private, and military aircraft across the United States. Federal Aviation Administration has had two primary missions since its inception: [A.] to promote the aviation sector and [B.] to guarantee the safety of American passengers.  The FAA has had varying degrees of success in carrying out its safety mandate, as shown by recent reports of the agency permitting one airline to fly aircraft that had not been thoroughly examined by government authorities. Its damaged image deteriorated further after the hijackings of the commercial airliners on September 11, 2001.
  2. Federal Transit Administration: The Federal Transit Administration supports mass transit networks across the nation by awarding huge amounts of money in grants to municipal and state governments and other non-profit groups. The FTA’s objective would be to see modern transit routes start operating or to enhance the performance of current mass transit systems. Additionally, the agency is accountable for maintaining that grantees adhere to federal obligations, as well as legislative and administrative regulations.  
  1. Office of the Inspector GeneralThe Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation is responsible for verifying that DOT programs and operations adhere to the law and perform effectively. Each year, the Office of the Inspector General conducts audits and investigations, reviewing financial records and other data to determine if any illegal or unethical activity or poorly managed operations need attention. When DOT workers are suspected of violating the law, the OIG submits the case to the US Attorney General.

The Office of Investigations is composed of criminal and general investigators who are responsible for conducting criminal, civil, and administrative investigations of fraud and a variety of other allegations affecting DOT, its operating administrations, programs, and grantees (grant funds). The Office of Investigation’s top priorities involve crimes with a public safety impact, procurement and grant fraud schemes that significantly impact DOT funds, consumer and workforce fraud, and employee integrity violations. 

The Office of Investigations also manages a Hotline Complaint Center and investigates whistleblower complaints, including those referred by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

HOW TO DEAL WITH A COMPLAINT WITH THE DOT

Airlines are required by law to promptly recognize complaints and respond to consumers’ issues in writing within sixty days of receiving them. The airlines are to acknowledge complaints within thirty days of receipt. The Aviation Consumer Protection Division should be contacted with any and all consumer complaints about airlines Whenever individuals have a question about airport security screenings, the no-fly list, or anything else, it is important to consult the requirements of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

However, for airline complaints relating to discrimination, disability, and sexual misconduct, the process is more involved.  The DOT sends allegations of sexual misconduct to the FBI for investigation. An attorney is brought in to review disability and discrimination complaints.

HOW THE DOT CAN SOLVE AN AIR TRAVEL ISSUE

When it comes to air travel-related problems, the Department of Transportation has the ultimate say. Individuals often make an effort to settle an air travel issue before contacting the Department of Transportation (DOT). Airports are staffed with trained problem solvers known as Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) who can solve a wide range of issues on the spot. Passengers who are stuck may ask these representatives for assistance with arranging meals and hotel rooms as well as compensation if they have been bumped from a flight or are dealing with luggage problems. They can also aid with other regular claims or complaints.

Complaining to the airline is an option if individuals are unable to settle the issue at the airport. Consumer complaints must be acknowledged within thirty days of receipt by airlines, and written answers must be sent to customers within sixty days of receipt. In addition, the DOT mandates that airlines inform customers how to file a complaint with them.

It is often required to contact the airline via sending an email or a letter to the airline’s corporate consumer office. Flights inside the United States are required to include a statement on their websites explaining how and where passengers may file complaints with the Department of Transportation.

The Department of Transportation will take the complaint if the airline does not satisfactorily settle it. Complaints of illegal discrimination in air travel by airline workers or airline contractors on the basis of disability or based on race, color, national origin, or sex (including gender) may be made to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Complaints about air travel may be resolved by getting assistance. Federal regulations safeguard airline passengers by defining the responsibilities of airlines, such as when a flight is oversold, baggage is mishandled, an aircraft is delayed on the runway, and refunds are sought.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Hotline website provides information on how to report an airline safety problem. The entity also provides for a telephonic reporting service and also accepts complaints via email. For any issues regarding aviation security, the  Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must be contacted. If individuals are having problems with anything other than safety or security while flying, then they should contact an airline or ticket agent’s customer care department. As an additional option, customers may speak to an agent at the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection.

ADDRESSING COMPLAINTS ABOUT TRAVEL FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.

It is imperative to ask to talk with the airline’s Complaint Resolution Official if flyers have a disability-related problem with an airline accommodation or service (CRO). When it comes to problems relating to air travel and disabilities, a Complaint Resolution Official (CRO)s the airline’s designated officer.

Using the DOT’s hotline, passengers with disabilities will be able to get basic information about their rights as well as requests for printed consumer information as well as assistance with time-sensitive disability-related problems. The airline, ticket agent, or DOT may all be contacted by passengers who feel their rights have been infringed or who are unable to settle a problem satisfactorily.

MAKING A FORMAL COMPLAINT TO A TRAVEL AGENCY OR AIRLINE.

Consumer complaints must be acknowledged within thirty days of receipt by airlines, and answers must be sent to customers within thirty days of receipt (thirty days for disability-related complaints).  The DOT also expects ticket agents to react to concerns from customers.

Flights inside the United States are required to include a statement on their websites explaining how and where passengers may file complaints with the Department of Transportation (DOT). The airline’s website may include a form for this. Consumer offices at the airline or ticket agent’s corporate headquarters are often accessible through email or letter.

If users have a concern or complaint regarding a consumer or civil rights (including handicap) problem relating to air travel, there must be an application filled to contact the Department of Transportation (DOT). This application may be done by mail or via an online form. Correspondence may be sent to the DOT at the designated address.

If the individual is sending a letter, they must make sure to include their entire address, phone number, and details about the trip and the issue they encountered or are now experiencing. However, a matter must be filed to DOT in writing in order to be treated as a complaint.

CONSUMER COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES AT THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

Complaints about discrimination and the disability will be addressed specifically, wherein the complaint will be sent to the airline by a Transportation Industry Analyst, and the airline is obligated to reply to both the individual as well as the DOT.

This complaint is then reviewed by an official at the Department of Transportation (DOT) to see whether a violation occurred after the airline’s answer is received. The case will be sent to an attorney for evaluation once it has been reviewed by an analyst. After an attorney has examined the said case, clients will get a report outlining the findings. 

For all other issues, the complaint will be sent to the airline or ticket agency by a Transportation Industry Analyst. Individuals will then get a formal answer from the airline or ticket broker. A copy of the airline’s and ticket agent’s response to DOT will be requested if it comes within the jurisdiction of DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. After that, a DOT analyst will look at the situation to see whether there was a violation.

Whatever power DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has to enforce the complaint, it will then be included in the database and counted towards the overall number of complaints submitted in the DOT’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report if it concerns a problem with air travel service. It will also assist the Department of Transportation in identifying patterns in the airline sector, which may serve as the foundation for future regulation.

In order to assess how well-regulated companies are following the rules they enforce, the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection will examine air travel service complaints on a yearly basis. They will also look for patterns or areas of concern that may call for additional action. This analysis may serve as a starting point for future inquiries, enforcement, and regulatory measures.

TRANSPARENCY IN THE COMPLAINTS THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RECEIVES

In its Air Travel Consumer Report, which is released every month, the Department of Transportation provides data on the number and kind of complaints it gets from passengers and travelers alike about airlines and ticket agents. Consumers and air travel businesses may compare the complaint records of different airlines, ticket agents, and tour operators thanks to this report, which is accessible to the public. Besides complaints, the report includes data that the airlines submit to the Department of Transportation on flight delays, cancellations, bumping, and mishandled luggage.

Recently, the Department of Transportation has sponsored five candidates, who were chosen to gain five million dollars each from the new Regional Infrastructure Accelerators (RIA) program

To this end, the government has stated that the RIA program will assist speed up project delivery in a number of ways including project planning, research, and analyses as well as preliminary engineering and design work.

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Sources

1. “Dot History.” DOT History | Bureau of Transportation Statistics, https://www.bts.dot.gov/ntl/dot-history.

2. The department’s goal is “to create and coordinate policies that will provide an efficient and cost-effective national transportation system while taking into account the needs of the public, the environment, and national security.

3. In 1965, Najeeb Halaby, administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency – the future Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – recommended to US President Lyndon B. Johnson that transportation be raised to a cabinet-level position and the FAA be absorbed into the Department of Transportation (DOT)

4. Leopold, George. “The FAA and Its Odious Odas.” EETimes, 4 Mar. 2021, https://www.eetimes.com/the-faa-and-its-odious-odas/. 

5. Such as United Airlines, Delta, and Southwest Airlines

6. Schaper, David. “It Was Shoes on, No Boarding Pass or ID. but Airport Security Forever Changed on 9/11.” NPR, NPR, 10 Sept. 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/09/10/1035131619/911-travel-timeline-tsa. 

7. The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG) is one of the Inspector General offices created by the Inspector General Act of 1978.

8.  A Transportation Industry Analyst will forward your complaint to the airline and the airline will be required to provide you with a response. . . . The DOT analyst will then review the case to determine whether a violation occurred.  If your complaint does not appear to fall under any of the laws that we enforce, it will still be logged in our database.”

9. A telephonic call may be done to that agency at 866/289-9673, or send an email to TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

10. The Department of Transportation’s portal for air passenger safety and security has a wealth of information on a variety of subjects. For the benefit of air passengers, the Department of Transportation (DOT) offers a handy “Fly Rights” handbook.

11. TSA may be reached at 1-866-289-9673 or by email

12. DOT’s toll-free hotline for air passengers with disabilities, 1-800-778-4838 or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY), can provide help to those who need it.

13. From Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, the hotline is open

14. DOT Office of Aviation Consumer Protection 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE Washington, DC 20590 U.S. Department of Transportation

15. If the individual  has a consumer-related issue, then they may reach DOT at their telephonic number 202-366-2220

16. “Regional Infrastructure Accelerators Program.” Department of Transportation, https://www.transportation.gov/buildamerica/financing/tifia/regional-infrastructure-accelerators-program. 

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