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News Digest (DOT 101-13)

Consumers Cautioned on Air Tours to College Bowl Games. The U.S. Department of Transportation today reminded air travelers going to this season’s college football bowl games that a company marketing an air tour package that includes game tickets must have the tickets in hand or have a written contract for the tickets before advertising the tour. If a travel agent or other tour representative states that a game ticket is included, the consumer should require at the time of purchase that the game ticket be presented or a written confirmation for the ticket be provided. If a game ticket is not specifically mentioned in advertisements or other solicitation material or listed as a tour feature, the ticket is probably not included, the Department cautioned.  If an advertisement does not state whether or not a game ticket is included, consumers should ask about it.

In addition, if the tour involves a public charter flight, the organizer of the charter program must have a contract with an airline for the charter flights and obtained authority from the Department for the charter program before advertising the trip.  The Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings has issued a notice specifically directed to colleges and other organizations wishing to arrange charter flights to football bowl games, NCAA basketball playoff games, or other special events. The notice, which was issued in 2012, explains the requirements to be followed by colleges or other organizations that plan to charter flights to these events and can be found online at http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/bowl-game-guidance-2012.

People may file complaints about college bowl tours that advertise tickets but do not provide them or other violations of the Department’s rules on special event tours by contacting the Enforcement Office’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division through its web-based complaint system at www.dot.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint, by voice-mail at (202) 366-2220 or by TTY at (202) 366-0511. Contact for news media:  Bill Mosley, (202) 366-4570.

Federal Railroad Administration Declares an Emergency Weather Event.  The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has determined that a severe winter snow storm affecting western states and extending into the Plains and Upper Midwest now constitutes an “emergency event” as related to railroad operations. Therefore, the FRA has activated an Emergency Relief Docket (FRA-2013-0001) as of December 6, 2013, and the emergency relief provisions of 49 CFR Part 211.45 are now in effect. Establishment of the docket provides an expedited process by which railroads may seek and FRA may approve waivers from specific safety rules, regulations, or standards to facilitate storm-related repairs, and related operational recovery and restoration efforts. Such emergency waivers  help ensure that compliance with  safety regulations does not stand in the way of railroad efforts to cope with the emergency while ensuring the safety of the public and railroad employees. Contact: Kevin Thompson (202) 493-6024.

Friday, December 6, 2013