How the Airline Industry Uses Congress to Stack the Deck Against Consumers

Congressman Bill Shuster is Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He’s the son of former Congressman and House Transportation Committee Chair Bud Shuster, who resigned his seat amidst a scandal with a lobbyist.

The current Congressman Shuster dates the Vice President for Global Government Affairs for airline industry lobbying group Airlines for America. Once his divorce was final and he openly acknowledged this relationship she stopped lobbying him, and only lobbies his congressional committee. (Here she is apparently with a former Senator, as well.)

Shuster’s Chief of Staff is married to the Airlines for America Senior Vice President of Government Relations.

The lobbying group contends they don’t need to take advantage of these sexual personal relationships because their President is so close to the Congressman already, they’ve “known each other for decades.” (HT: Rob R.)

    Remember any time you think you want legislation to change something in the industry that it must go through Chairman Shuster’s committee. Whatever you want gets spit out the other side in a way he’ll sign off on.

It’s hardly even news that the Transportation Committee chairman is spotted lounging poolside with airline industry lobbyists.

On Feb. 10, Nick Calio, head of the nation’s top airline trade group, Airlines for America, testified before Rep. Bill Shuster’s House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. …And the week after that, he and Calio escaped to Miami Beach, Florida, with Shelley Rubino, an Airlines for America vice president who is Shuster’s girlfriend.

The three lounged by the pool and dined together during festivities tied to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-Fla.) annual weekend fundraising trip. Attendees said it they looked as if they were traveling in a pack.

…Shuster’s office did not reply to multiple requests for comment about who paid for the trip or whether it was appropriate to associate so closely with top representatives for the airline industry at the the same time the FAA bill is under consideration in Congress.

…Several lobbyists on the fundraising trip were taken aback by the closeness displayed by Shuster, Calio and Rubino…

Multiple attendees said the trio spent much of the trip together, hanging out poolside on deck chairs in front of a cabana that was rented for the weekend fundraiser.

Apparently they were soaking it in at one of the best pool party locations in South Beach. (Shuster had been dressed down by former Speaker John Boehner over his love of partying with lobbyists back in 2010.)

Shelbourne Wyndham Grand

Lest anyone think that this is somehow an indictment of Republicans, the industry lobbyist the Chairman is dating is former Chief of Staff to a Democratic member.

If you find yourself on opposite sides of a policy issue with the airlines, then you oppose any new legislation rather than favoring it, since new legislation is crafted to benefit US airlines.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. These congressmen are total crooks. How they don’t consider this a conflict of interest is beyond me. They wonder why people are fed up with Congress and why people have such a low opinion of the job they are doing. It’s time to throw them all out and enact term limits. Consumers are being totally screwed over by these politicians.

  2. But the ME3 get subsidies from their government whine Airlines for America. (Result: more competition, lower fares, better service)

    This is what WE get from OUR government (Screwed!, literally)

    Thanks a lot, Shuster!

  3. Many Americans look down on the widespread corruption in some other countries. Americans need to open their eyes to the destructive levels of corruption inherent in our own society and system of government. Naturally, those who benefit or think they might benefit from that corruption aren’t going to do anything about it or even acknowledge that corruption exists. It is the vast majority of us “suckers” who refuse to see what’s going on who suffer the consequences.

  4. Is it not possible to file legal suite against such congressmen for corruption? There must be a legal way to address this for the citizens, except just waiting for another election. In many so called “corrupt” countries we look down upon, they have independent government agencies that investigate corruption. It’s high time we, in the US, acknowledge this problem and begin to address it head on.

  5. This kind of political control has been this way for years and occurs in both parties. The whole thing is a mess with power brokers. For instance, agencies have been run by people who know if they treat companies right, the industries they’re supposed to monitor, they have a good chance of ending up on the boards of those companies after a few years out of the agency. There are board members of chemical companies who used to be over the EPA. It’s a giant money machine.

Comments are closed.