Seeing the light

Coming to your senses is a great state of being, but even better is watching somebody else do it — you get a satisfying sense of relief, with none of the embarrassment.

And so it was last week when we learned that two misguided government initiatives were being put on hold.

First came the news that the Transportation Department (DOT) would postpone for a year a pending rule that consumers buying airline tickets give their airline, travel agent or website an affirmation that they understand federal rules about hazardous materials in baggage, an affirmation that would have to be repeated at check-in.

In one year that comes to nearly 1.5 billion statements of  “Yes, I understand” for U.S. airline passengers.

What makes this rule particularly odd is that, as of Jan. 1, it would require airlines to tweak their systems so that neither ticketing nor check-in could proceed without the passenger’s double acknowledgment.

ASTA and others have pointedly suggested that there could be better ways to do this, and thankfully the DOT has decided to delay the rule to mull it over.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the European Commission is also seeing the light, stating that it will hold off on imposing its carbon emission controls on international flights by non-E.U. airlines, subject to approval by the European Parliament.

The E.U. has been taking a beating from the world’s airlines, and their governments, for unilaterally deciding to extend its Emissions Trading System to airline flights to or from E.U. points that originate outside the 27-nation community.

Under that plan, airlines receive emission allowances and are required to buy additional allowances if they exceed them. Because the allowances apply to the entire flight, not just the portion over European airspace, airlines have complained that the system would illegally impose a tax on them for carbon emissions that occur outside of Europe.

Russia and China have said their airlines simply won’t comply, and Congress last week wrapped up legislation that would enable the U.S. to do the same.

In the face of this defiance, the E.U. appears, finally, to be backing down and allowing the U.N.-sponsored International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to hammer out a global consensus.

The next step is for ICAO’s member nations to come to their senses and pick up the pace.
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