Government Relations

Dear Colleagues:

It is an honor to continue to represent the Virginia Chapter of GBTA as the Legislative Liaison.  I am delighted to have this opportunity and look forward to serving you and our Chapter again this year.  One of my very favorite quotes comes from Thomas Jefferson, “Eternal Vigilance is the price of Liberty.”  This idea sums up my belief and conviction in engaging with Government directly.

The US Travel Industry continues to be a bright spot for our economy, accounting for 503.7 Billion dollars in 2017 - the most recent available figures.  Our Chapter and the rest of the State and Local BTAs are working very hard to impact the laws that are passed on the local, State and Federal levels.  GBTA is one of the most effective voices today in advocating for the Travel Industry.

In 2018, we enjoyed a lot of success in our lobbying efforts.  After six Continuing Resolutions and at the urging of GBTA, we were successful in getting the FAA funded for the next 5 years!  That bill touched on a lot of issues that will make flying more pleasant:

  1. Prohibits cellphone calls on planes.
  2. Bars airlines from bumping a passenger who already has been seated on the airplane.
  3. Requires the FAA to set minimums for seat width and the distance between rows of seats.
  4. Lets the Transportation Department determine whether airlines are shading the truth when they say “that a flight is delayed or canceled due to weather alone” if other factors entered into the decision.
  5. Requires airlines to refund fees to passengers for things they do not receive.
  6. Makes it illegal to put a live animal in an overhead bin. This change comes after a dog suffocated in March when a United Airline’s flight attendant insisted that its carrier be stored overhead rather than underneath the flier’s seat.
  7. Creates a position of aviation consumer advocate.
  8. Instructs the secretary of transportation to create an “Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights” to ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect, that their wheelchairs or other necessary equipment are accommodated, and that they receive appropriate seat assignments.

The FAA also is instructed to provide greater regulation of drones. The bill would allow the government to shoot down a drone that “is identified as high-risk and a potential target for unlawful unmanned aircraft activity.”

The #1 item that GBTA was not successful in getting addressed was a provision that could have curbed airline fees was cut from the bill in the House-Senate conference committee. It would have designated the Secretary of Transportation to determine whether fees were “reasonable” and proportional to the cost to the airlines for the service. Removal of that provision — and protecting fees airlines collect, last year totaling $2.86 billion in ticket-change fees and almost $4.6 billion in baggage fees — was the No. 1 objective of airline lobbyists, and their success was lamented Tuesday by one of the provision’s authors.

We will continue to press to have this issue addressed.  Every dollar of increased cost reduces the available money for the Business Travel our industry partners rely on.  I want to ask you to join me in getting involved in one of GBTA’s Lobbying efforts and keep the momentum moving forward.  Becoming involved in this chapter is one of the best ways to accomplish that goal.  

Understanding how legislation at the local, state and federal levels affect and effect your goods and services and the impact that legislation will have on your clients and colleagues.  Business Travel is both necessary and complex.  So is government.  Often our Industry is seen as an easy target for increasing revenues without impact to a direct constituent, making it “painless”.  Every law passed will affect some segment of our Industry and often as not, not for the better.  GBTA has been a vigilant advocate for making the Industry aware of impending legislation, helping us mobilize and directly lobbying on the National level to ensure that government officials are aware of the effects their actions have on the economy.  I am hopeful that you too desire to become involved in this critical process. 

Become involved by letting your Board know what you hear and read regarding regulations and your business.  Become involved by sending emails to our representatives.  Become involved by donating to the NBTA PAC, so that our colleagues in Washington and Richmond can teach our representatives.  Become involved because “those who will not engage in politics are destined to be led by their lessors.”  

Joyce Byington-Clark - VBTA Government Liaison