LaHood defends airline price rules in speech to aviation industry

The lobbying group for airlines, Airlines for America, has argued that the rules create an unfair business environment that does not apply to other industries. A trio of airlines — Spirit, Southwest and Allegiant — have filed a lawsuit challenging the DOT rules, and A4A filed a brief with the D.C. Court of Appeals in the case.

"ATA members share DOT’s stated objective of ensuring that customers are treated fairly and consistently, receiving the products and services for which they have paid on the basis advertised to them," the organization's filing said. "But ATA members do not share DOT’s unstated but apparent goal of holding airlines to much higher standards of conduct than prevail in other deregulated industries."

LaHood said Tuesday that the new rules ensured airline passengers were treated with "dignity and respect."

He also defended the DOT's new rules for pilot fatigue, which were crafted by the Federal Aviation Administration in the wake of the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 3407 as it approached New York's Buffalo Niagara International Airport in February 2009.

"I think we put out a very good rule," LaHood told the Aero Club Tuesday.

Under the new rules, pilots would be required to get at least 10 hours of off-duty time between flight schedules, which transportation officials said would give them at least the opportunity to get eight hours of sleep before they get to the cockpit.

Pilots would also be limited to no more than nine hours of "flight time," which is considered by the FAA to be any time an airplane is moving on its own power, even if it is on the ground at airport. Pilots would also be limited to 28 working days in a month.