Air Transport World

CAB within DOT; CAB sunset is just around the corner, but DOT has some loose ends that need tieing before the dying agency's substitute is in place.

The demise of the Civil Aeronautics Board at the end of this month was planned six years ago when the Airline Deregulation Act was passed. But, as of early November there was still a good deal of shuffling going on to determine the exact details of the Department of Transportation's takeover of remaining economic regulatory functions.

As early as 1981 the CAB began studying what data would still need to be collected from the airline industry. Last February DOT issued the broad outline of its plan for assuming CAB functions, along with organizational charts illustrating that plan.

As with most deadlines, things get done at the last minute. Moreover, passage of the CAB sunset bill earlier this year changed some of the previous assumptions. For example, anti-trust immunity for the industry continues for four years. And the DOT, not the Justice Department, maintains authority for anti-trust. Consumer protection transfers wholesale to DOT, not to the Federal Trade Commission, as was originally planned.

The sunset bill also made plain that the government is supposed to continue collecting a certain minimum amount of data, although it banned future collection of traffic by flight. So fine-tuning of the broad outline continues, including how former CAB functions will be carried out at DOT, and what financial and traffic data the government will require of airlines.

However, certain information is known. For example, DOT published last February the system it will use for handling international carrier selection cases. The transfer of that quasi-judicial function from an independent regulatory agency to an Executive Branch department is one of the hottest potatoes related to CAB's demise. Critics of DOT are relying on legislation, the judicial system and what DOT says will be an insulated process to keep politics out of carrier selection as much as possible. …

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