Sunday, August 23, 2009
Speaker of Travelers
Listen up, Washington: We travelers have a voice, and it's coming out of the mouth of the Consumer Travel Alliance.
The new nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is installing itself on the Hill, within earshot of the congressmen who shape the laws that affect every aspect of travel. "For years, consumers of all modes of travel have not had an effective voice in D.C.," said co-founder Charlie Leocha, a veteran consumer advocate and author of the 1998 book "Travel Rights." "We want to make sure legislators know what consumers are concerned about." The group's other co-founder is Christopher Elliott, the National Geographic Traveler reader advocate who also writes the syndicated column Travel Troubleshooter.
To be sure, many issues affecting travelers make their way up the Capitol steps, but the alliance is highlighting concerns that might not make the 5 o'clock news ("Passengers Trapped on Tarmac for an Eternity," "Hundreds of Bags Lost in Purgatory"). That includes not just passenger rights legislation but credit card billing changes, privacy issues (such as the use of full-body scanners) and antitrust rules. "Everything is really under the radar, but very important to travelers," Leocha said in an e-mail.
The alliance's approach is to attend committee hearings, organize seminars for congressional leaders and staffers and launch op-ed campaigns. It is not spending money lobbying. (He noted that airlines spent $30 million lobbying last year, the hotel industry dropped $6 million and cruises sank $6 million.) The group invites travelers to join the cause and accepts donations of $25 a year. Even if your funds are tight, find comfort in Leocha's battle cry: "We are fighting for everyone."
US Airways recently announced plans to expand its offerings from Reagan National. Among the destinations are eight cities that previously did not have daily nonstop service: Birmingham, Ala.; Islip and Ithaca, N.Y.; Little Rock; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Pensacola and Tallahassee, Fla. . . . Start working out on the StairMaster because the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge is less than a month away, on Sept. 19-20. Ten historic structures are part of the contest. Info: 410-437-0741, http://www.cheslights.org.
Reporting: Andrea Sachs
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