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Will the Democrats take the House? Will the Republicans retain control of the Senate? Pollsters have been trying to predict the outcome for months now. As we head into the midterm elections today, if there is anything we learned from following the polls in the 2016 Presidential election, it is that no one really knows what will happen until the results are in.
At GBTA, we are not in the business of predicting elections, but we do want to let you know what impact the election can have on business travel – regardless of who wins or loses today.
Here are three key travel-related committees to keep an eye on:
House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee - Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) is currently serving his third term as Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. As one of the largest committees in Congress, it has broad jurisdiction over all modes of transportation and other aspects of our national infrastructure as well. Shuster is retiring from Congress, meaning the chair of this Committee will change regardless of the election outcome.
If the House flips, the current Democratic ranking member who would become the chair is Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Rep. DeFazio was a sponsor of the FASTER Act, which GBTA strongly supported. He does however, support raising the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). GBTA will continue to engage on these important issues as an increase in the PFC could have a significant impact on the bottom line for companies sending business travelers on the road for roughly 40 million business trips a month – most of which involve air travel.
If the Republicans remain in control of the House, there are two contenders in play to take on the chair role: Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO). Past Legislative Summit attendees may remember Rep. Denham as a speaker in 2015. He has done some positive work for business travelers with his efforts around passenger rail legislation. He is facing a tough reelection campaign that he will need to win first if he wants a chance to chair the Committee though. Rep. Graves is also a past Legislative Summit speaker and a longtime champion of business travel making him a two-time GBTA Navigator Award winner. Politico reports that Graves appears to be first-in-line in this contest, but that both Congressmen have expressed a desire to push a major infrastructure package as an early priority in the next Congress.
House Homeland Security Committee – With current Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) reaching his term limit, the leadership for the House Homeland Security Committee will also change regardless of whether the House flips or not. It is not completely clear who will take over should the Republicans maintain control, but Mike Rogers (R-AL) is seen as the most likely.
If the Democrats win the House, ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) would be the next chairman. Thompson has been the top Democrat on the Committee since 2005.
Given the many security items incorporated into the recently passed FAA Reauthorization bill, the Committee will likely focus more attention on TSA oversight issues going forward including workforce and union concerns, whistleblower protections and employee misconduct. Thompson has also shown interest in the growing use of biometric technology and facial recognition by Customs Border Protection and TSA, along with what privacy concerns this technology poses.
Additionally, Politico reported that a Thompson aide has said Democrats want to examine immigration policies that have come out of the Trump Administration including the travel ban, border wall and disaster response.
Senate Commerce Committee – Sen. John Thune (R-SD), current chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, is expected to move to the role of Senate Majority Whip should the Republicans retain control of the Senate.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) is expected to take on the chair role in this case. His priorities on transportation are not yet known. When it comes to aviation, he has spoken out against regulatory policies that make it harder for the airlines to do business out of concern that this typically means if airlines need to cut service, it will be to less-profitable, rural routes like his state. However, he has also been opposed to the airlines’ views on several issues including pulling air traffic control operations from the FAA and supporting language in the FAA Bill that would bar unreasonable change and cancellation fees (this ultimately was not included in the final bill). In other modes of transportation, he has long been a proponent for maintaining Amtrak’s long-distance routes and will likely be a key voice for Amtrak on this front if he becomes chair.
If the Democrats take control of the Senate, the front-runner to chair the Committee is Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are also in the mix. Sen. Kobluchar is another long-time champion of business travel and an inaugural winner of GBTA’s first Navigator Award in 2016.
GBTA will be following the election results closely as they come in Tuesday night and will monitor the changes in committee leadership as that unfolds. Travel has always been a bipartisan issue and we will continue to work closely with leaders on both sides of the aisle to ensure the voice of the business travel industry is heard.
I encourage you to help make our collective voice stronger by attending our Legislative Summit next spring and letting your members of Congress know how important business travel is to our economy.
You can also stay up-to-date on GBTA’s advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., Brussels and around the world by subscribing to GBTA’s bi-weekly Politics of Travel email from GBTA’s Vice President of Government Relations, Shane Downey.
Earlier this month, I sent the note below as an email to GBTA members outlining why the FAA Reauthorization is such a big win for business travel. Read on below for more and tune in to this week’s GBTA podcast where I had the opportunity to talk with Shane Downey, GBTA Vice President of Government Relations, along with Todd Webster of Cornerstone Government Affairs for an in-depth discussion on the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Bill and what it means for business travel.
In a rare act of bipartisanship in today’s political landscape, Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass a bill that reauthorizes the budget for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years. Before the President signed the FAA Bill into law, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 93-6 and it passed the House by a similarly large margin with a vote of 398-23.
Why is this such a big win for business travel?
As the voice of the business travel industry on Capitol Hill, GBTA staff tirelessly advocates for policies that better the business travel industry. Our Government Relations Committee provides insight to help us identify the issues that matter most, our Chapters engage in advocacy through our annual Government Relations Challenge, and most importantly, many of our members attend our Legislative Summit each year to take our collective voice to the Hill and meet with their Senators and Representatives.
In this one bill, virtually all of the priority issues we have included in our Legislative Agenda for the past five years have now become a reality.
Long-Term Reauthorization: GBTA has been calling for a long-term FAA Reauthorization to provide stability to the nation’s air traffic control system, ensuring the ongoing safe, secure and efficient facilitation of air travel. This bill marks the first five-year extension since 1982. This follows years of instability created by three authorization extensions from 2015-2017, a federal government shutdown in 2013, a lapse in the FAA authorization in 2011 and 23 short-term extensions from 2007 to 2012.
An End to the Diversion of Security Fees: Over the past year, GBTA has been one of the lone organizations supporting the FASTER Act, which would end the practice of diverting a portion of the 9-11 security fee charged on each air ticket toward the national deficit. GBTA argued that this money should go towards security and improving TSA’s efforts as it was intended. This bill ends the current practice of diverting 60 cents on every fee charged by 2027.
PreCheck is PreCheck: PreCheck is a win for all passengers, leading to increased traveler satisfaction and overall safety. This new bill mandates that only those prescreened passengers enrolled in trusted traveler programs can use the PreCheck lanes. It also enacts measures to increase marketing and enrollment capabilities through authorized third parties, which will ultimately continue to strengthen the benefits of PreCheck.
No Voice Calls on Planes: GBTA has long-advocated for #NoCallsOnPlanes as the vast majority of business travelers oppose voice calls on planes. This bill calls for a regulation prohibiting calls on planes. As we always say, sometimes silence really is golden.
Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs): The bill did not include an increase in the PFC, which is a tax on air travelers and essentially a tax on the cost of doing business. The bill also calls for the formation of an expert panel to investigate the need for infrastructure, resources and the impact of increasing the fee – specifically calling out for representation from the business travel industry to act as a stakeholder on the panel. This is the direct result of our efforts to demonstrate the diverse needs of the leisure and business travel industries and showcase the important economic impact of our industry.
Rental Car Taxation: This bill prohibits discriminatory taxes on rental cars at airport locations, meaning that state and local governments can no longer put a tax on a rental car that they wouldn’t put on any other purchase. For example, specific car rental taxes used to pay for new stadiums targeted at travelers renting cars who are not from their voting district would be prohibited.
Business Traveler Protections: Finally, the bill included some consumer protections that will look out for our business travelers including mandates to set new minimum requirements for seats on airplanes; a call to refund passengers for services they paid for but did not receive; and for regulators to determine if it is unfair or deceptive for airlines to tell passengers that a flight is delayed or canceled due to weather alone when other factors are involved.
Thank you to all of our members who have been a part of our advocacy efforts over the years. It was your collective voice that allowed our industry to achieve this tremendous milestone. The fight is never over though when it comes to advocacy as we must remain vigilant on these issues and stay on top of our next priorities. I encourage you all to attend our Legislative Summit next spring to make our voice even stronger. You can also stay up-to-date on GBTA’s advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., Brussels and around the world by subscribing to GBTA’s bi-weekly Politics of Travel email from GBTA’s Vice President of Government Relations, Shane Downey.
I would also like to thank our long-time friends and colleagues at Cornerstone Government Affairs. Our partnership over the past eight years has been exceptional and your contributions to our success immeasurable.
In closing, it is worth again calling out the outstanding bi-partisan work in Congress and the White House to look past ideological differences and put the future of the business travel industry – and business travelers that drive our economy – first. We hope that this is a model for future success for the global business travel industry and our leaders in Washington.
On this week’s episode of The Business of Travel, GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick talks with Shane Downey, GBTA Vice President of Government Relations, along with Todd Webster of Cornerstone Government Affairs for an in-depth discussion on the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Bill and what it means for business travel.
You can download and listen to The Business of Travel in iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and your other favorite podcast directories. Be sure to subscribe to the show so you don't miss out!
Today, I testified on behalf of GBTA at a hearing held by the Homeland Security Committee’s House Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security. The purpose of the hearing, Addressing The TSA Checkpoint: The PreCheck Program and Airport Wait Times, was to examine both TSA, GAO, and private sector stakeholder perspectives relating to the TSA PreCheck program, as well as the agency’s airport wait times mitigation strategy going into the busy Summer travel season.
It cannot be overstated how important travel is to the U.S. economy... or any economy. As we always say, ‘Business travel drives business growth’. Companies invest in business travel to drive new business, create new jobs and build shareholder value.
As the busy summer travel season ramps up, GBTA is concerned past travel problems in screening as well as past statements and policies on foreign visitation will impact the rest of 2018 and beyond. The nation’s businesses spent $424 billion to send travelers out on the road for 514.4 million domestic business trips including roughly 144 million round trip flights. Because of this mass of travelers, GBTA has made secure and efficient travel a key platform of GBTA’s legislative policy and has been a supporter of TSA PreCheck since its first iteration as Registered Traveler.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Katko (R-NY) asked about cooperation from TSA and areas for improvement and growth. Our interaction with TSA has been terrific, but the reality is some of these areas we must accelerate, particularly the marketing of the programs to corporations.
Rep. Katko also added that PreCheck should not be used to manage traffic at airports, especially under the guise of risk-based security.
Regarding managed inclusion, GBTA believes its continued practice undermines the impetus to enroll and calls into question the entire premise of the program, which is prescreening travelers who through background checks have been identified as “safe” before they arrive at the airport. It’s time to finally put an end to this practice, which confers all the benefits of PreCheck without requiring any of the burdens.
TSA PreCheck cannot be the sole answer to long security lines. Accurate travel numbers, well thought out policies and solid analysis of historical data and forecasts, like the “GBTA BTI™ Outlook – Annual Global Report & Forecast” are key to TSA’s ability to adequately staff checkpoints.
Ranking Chair Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) asked what message do the President’s policies and rhetoric send international visitors.
We are at a time of conflicting and sometimes seemingly contradictory views on how the business travel marketplace is trending – and what the future holds. On one hand, as lower corporate tax rates are pushed forward and business regulations are rolled back, some would argue that business travel is healthy. But other underlying factors have a decidedly more negative impact on the future of business travel including trade policy renegotiation, terrorism, travel and immigration bans, sanctions, electronics bans and geopolitical tensions.
GBTA projected a loss of over $1.3 billion in overall travel-related expenditures in the U.S. in 2017 including hotels, food, rental cars and shopping expenses that inbound travelers would have spent due to global uncertainty driven by current administration policies.
We have an obligation as a country to address the issues and to give companies that are driving the economy the support they need.
Watch the full hearing.
On Wednesday night, Congress released the details of the FY18 Omnibus spending bill, rejecting an increase on the passenger facility charge (PFC) from $4.50 to $8.50. GBTA is pleased to see that attempts to increase the PFC were rebuffed – taxes and fees associated with travel typically lead to a negative effect on the U.S. economy at large.
Expedia-owned Orbitz discovered a potential data breach affecting 880,000 credit cards, The Verge writes.
European lawmakers are acting to address unfair airline competition rules, Reuters reports. On Tuesday, a European Parliament committee passed new rules that could revoke non-EU carriers’ rights to fly if they engage in “unfair” practices.
It may have been the first day of spring on Tuesday, but Mother Nature has not given up on winter just yet. The most recent Nor’easter from this week led to over 5,700 flight cancellations through the mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S., USA TODAY reports.
Across the pond, snowy conditions in the UK region led to airport closures, flight delays and cancellations, Buying Business Travel notes.
According to CNBC, over 16,000 flights have been cancelled this month due to a barrage of snowstorms, making it “the worst March for flight cancellations in at least six years”.
Budget airline Ryanair plans on investing €100 million to acquire a 75% stake in Australian airline Laudamotion, Travel Weekly reports.
Episode three of The Business of Travel delves into the potential rollback of consumer protections as part of the DOT’s “deregulatory” initiatives. Travel Tech’s Steve Shur shares what’s at stake if these regulations disappear, and Rick Wakida provides a buyer perspective on the potential impact on travelers and travel programs.
BCD Travel forecasts a rise in hotel rates of two to four percent in 2018, Hotelmarketing’com reports.
Skytrax released its list of the world’s best airports for 2018, with Singapore’s Changi Airport taking the lead for the sixth consecutive year, TravelDailyNews International writes.
According to Bloomberg, airlines are asking the Trump administration to help hide fees from passengers by keeping relevant data out of their hands.
The same source notes that starting next year, the DOT plans to change the way an airline’s lost-bag rate is calculated.
Budget carrier AirAsia is in talks to launch an airline serving Myanmar, Reuters reports.
Steve Yonkers, Director of Identity and Credentialing, Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy, Screening Coordination Office spoke about REAL ID issues at the 15th Annual GBTA Legislative Summit, an event that brings more than 100 travel professionals to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers to share opinions on key issues.
Yonkers provided background on REAL ID, which was passed by Congress in 2005, and enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation. He said having a secure driver’s license and identification documents are vital components of national security. Yonkers explained to attendees that REAL ID will establish minimum standards for security.
It will only apply to entering a nuclear power plant, accessing Federal facilities and military bases and boarding regulated commercial aircraft.
Yonkers stressed that this does not create a national ID or database and that currently 26 states are in compliance.
GBTA will have a state-by-state update coming to the blog soon.
On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered his first address to Congress. In his address, he said he will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States -- financed through both public and private capital --- creating millions of new jobs. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the voice of the business travel industry, issued the following statement in response.
“The importance of Infrastructure improvement for our country is something that both sides of the aisle can agree on,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO. “For the future of business travel, it is paramount that the President and Congress work together on responsible investment in transportation infrastructure to ensure that money is spent wisely and that these investments made safeguard the safe and expedient travel and freedom of movement of all travelers.”
“Additionally, it is incumbent for Congress to tackle issues like passing an FAA Reauthorization Bill that accelerates NextGen, creates long term funding stability and addresses the many concerns related to passenger screening and security.”
“GBTA applauds the President for his commitment to long-term investment in our nation's infrastructure, specifically our nation’s airports, and we look forward to working with Congress and the Administration on these complex issues.”
President Trump also noted that his Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe -- and to keep out those who would do us harm.
“As we await a new executive order on travel, we urge the Trump administration to keep in mind the importance of business travel to our nation’s economy,” McCormick continued. “Closing our borders sends a message to the world that the United States is closed for business. Of course, security always comes first, but GBTA has always been a proponent for expanding proven security programs and developing new technology to facilitate information-sharing among governments to ensure travelers are always vetted properly, making us all more safe and secure.”
This spring as the busy summer travel season approached, long security lines at airports were becoming a serious issue. People were being asked to arrive at the airport earlier and earlier as wait times continued to swell.
An influx of funding, collaboration between TSA with airports and airlines and increased enrollment in TSA PreCheck helped bring wait times back down to a reasonable level throughout the summer, even as more travelers took to the skies.
Facing the threat of returning to long security lines, we expect Congress to provide TSA flexibility to keep the recently increased number of airport security screeners on board in the near term. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger spoke last week at the A4A Commercial Aviation Industry Summit saying in an ideal world he would have consistent, predictable funding over a five-year stretch to better plan for the future and create a more efficient and more automated system taking advantage of technologies available in a way that energizes the private sector to invest in developing the necessary products. This is really tough to do when you work three months at a time on a budget though, he added.
For business travelers, time is money, and unreasonably long wait times can cut into productivity or even cause missed flights, which lead to missed meetings and deals. The latest GBTA Foundation outlook forecasts 502 million U.S. business trips to take place in 2016 – a majority of which involve air travel. That is no small number and an efficient security experience is incredibly important for these travelers.
While short-term solutions, like increasing personnel over the summer, are important and necessary, long-term solutions are what is needed. GBTA has long been a strong supporter of risk-based security programs like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to facilitate a better travel experiences. Recent GBTA research shows business travelers agree, with nearly universal satisfaction (90 percent) with PreCheck. Legislation has been passed to improve traveler access to these programs, but TSA has yet to move forward with implementation of allowing multiple third-party vendors to market and enroll people.
Technology is another major area that needs to be addressed. TSA officers are not trained directly by the equipment manufacturers meaning they may not fully understand the full functionality of and how to correctly operate the machines they do have. TSA also needs to take a hard look at its current strategy for research and development as well as procurement of new technology to make sure new technologies are being implemented where they are needed most and upgraded technology doesn’t sit unused.
Another area that requires attention is the 9-11 Aviation Security Fee. A portion of the money taken in from this fee is diverted to help pay down budget deficits rather than being put towards improving security. At a time where the uncertainty and randomness of attacks across the world has put many on edge, it is more important than ever that all available funds are invested in improving security and ensuring are skies remain a safe place.
TSA handled the impending security line crisis this summer well, but it will require cooperation between TSA, the government and industry to truly create a forward-looking system for the future that ensures safe and efficient security across the country.
Today, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), John Katko (R-NY) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) introduced a bill that would end managed inclusion for PreCheck, a practice where Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents allow travelers to use PreCheck lanes when they have not been properly vetted.
GBTA, while a strong supporter of programs like TSA PreCheck, has been calling for an end to this practice for some time now. In order for the program to be truly secure, all passengers must go through the same vetting process, so it’s time to put an end to this practice, which confers all the benefits of PreCheck without requiring any of the burdens.
GBTA was especially pleased to see this legislation come just one day after nearly 100 GBTA members and business travel professionals traveled to Washington, D.C., to call on their lawmakers to end managed inclusion. The business travel industry voice was heard!
The 13th annual GBTA Legislative Symposium held in Washington, D.C. this week saw GBTA members call on lawmakers to oppose a proposed increase in the passenger facility charge (PFC), end the practice of managed inclusion in TSA PreCheck lanes and put a stop to discriminatory car rental taxes.
The Legislative Symposium kicked off with nearly back-to-back discussions with top lawmakers on key travel issues, ranging from PFCs to improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure to the important link between business travel and growth in our economy. Lawmakers and Administration speakers included Isabel Hill, Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office within the U.S. Department of Commerce, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Reps. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), John Katko (R-NY) and Sam Graves (R-MO).
You can find a full recap of day’s events right here on the blog:
GBTA Kicks off Legislative Symposium 2015 with Education Session
Legislative Symposium Continues with Congressional Overview
Legislative Symposium: Keeping the Momentum Going at Home
Senator Klobuchar Talks Travel & Tourism Issues at GBTA Legislative Symposium
Rep. Diaz Balart says No to PFCs at GBTA Legislative Symposium
Office Seeks to Make Travel & Tourism Easier
Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Congresswoman Frankel
Rep. Katko to Introduce Legislation Ending Managed Inclusion in PreCheck
Thank you to all of our GBTA members who joined us this week and made your voice heard on Capitol Hill!
Before GBTA members take to Capitol Hill tomorrow to deliver business travel messages to Congress, Greg McDonald of Cornerstone Government Affairs provided an overview of the 114th Congress.
By the Numbers:
Republicans have their first majority in the Senate in eight years, however, that may not necessarily translate into success for them, as 60 votes are needed to prevent a filibuster and a 2/3 majority is necessary to override a veto. The House has a large Republican majority – the largest since the Truman Administration and 12 more than at the end of the 113th Congress.
What does Congress have on the agenda?
Both the House and the Senate plan to have more weeks in session this year than in the past – 34 for the House and 39 for the Senate. They will have to focus on some perennial issues, such as the 2016 fiscal year budget and appropriations process as well as defense and intelligence authorizations. In addition, Congress will face deadlines on longer-term issues that need to be addressed and once-in-a-generation items are on Members’ wish lists too, such as immigration overhaul and a tax code rewrite. The debt limit and spending will also be a big debate in Congress this fall.
With everything that Congress has on its plate, it is important for our industry to educate them on issues important for business travel. Check out this post for a rundown of some of the key issues our members will be taking to the Hill tomorrow.