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U.S. airline group blasts White House competition efforts

WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - A group representing major U.S. airlines on Wednesday blasted White House proposals on competition in the industry as "short-sighted" and said they would "drive-up costs and reduce choices" for consumers.

The White House said on Wednesday the Transportation Department (USDOT) will propose new regulations to bar airlines from charging family members to sit near young children after DOT in 2021 proposed requiring airlines to refund fees for delayed bags.

"The federal government should be focused on 21st century policies and procedures that drive our nation’s aviation system forward, rather than making efforts that threaten to reduce access and affordability for consumers," said Airlines for America (A4A), a group representing Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O), American Airlines (AAL.O), Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) and others.

A4A said its member airlines "make every effort to accommodate customers traveling together, especially those traveling with children, without additional charges."

The Biden administration has taken steps it says will inject more competition into the airline industry. The U.S. Justice Department sued to unwind American Airlines Northeast Alliance with JetBlue Airways (JBLU.O) and USDOT reassigned 16 peak-hour flights at congested Newark Airport to Spirit Airlines (SAVE.N).

A4A on Wednesday said "the White House should get the facts straight amid efforts to impose new policies and regulations on our nation’s aviation industry." The White House declined to comment.

A4A separately posted a point-by-point statement Wednesday seeking to refute comments Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made on CNBC about airline competition, arguing "there is no evidence of a market failure or unfair or deceptive practices." USDOT did not comment.

Airlines are facing growing calls in Congress to boost consumer protections after a series of disruptions including a holiday meltdown at Southwest that resulted in the cancellation of more than 16,000 flights.

Airlines have previously sparred with Buttigieg over flight disruptions this summer. Buttigieg pushed airlines to adopt consumer protections even as some critics say he has not been tough enough on airlines.

U.S. lawmakers Tuesday proposed sweeping legislation to require airline passengers get refunds for delayed flights, prohibit airlines from further shrinking plane seat sizes and give consumers new rights to sue airlines for unfair practices.

A4A said "instituting government-controlled pricing, establishing a private right of action and dictating private sector contracts – would decrease competition and inevitably lead to higher ticket prices and reduced services to small and rural communities."

This article originally appeared on Reuters

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