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Passenger Rights Advocates Gain Momentum

September 23, 2009 By: George Dooley and the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) conducted a Passenger Rights Stakeholder Hearing in Washington, D.C. yesterday before a packed hearing room of airline passengers, travel professionals, Congressional staff and media in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Experts, both for and against legislation to address a growing extended-tarmac-delay problem, were sharply questioned by aviation journalists and travel industry professionals. The BTC said the “clear outcome from the hearing is that legislation is urgently required to address a growing passenger health and safety problem that airlines are apparently unable or unwilling to fix themselves.”

The hearing was sponsored by the Honorary Chairwomen Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) who have championed a three-hour national standard. The standard will allow passengers the option of deplaning, should a captain decide it is safe to do so. Their bills, S.213 and HR 674, were strongly endorsed by airline passengers,, BTC, other travel groups at the hearing. executive director Kate Hanni testified, “The airline industry has been the voice of 'no' for too long. The system is broken and passengers have been paying a dear price with their health, lost productivity and missed family events. This hearing shone a bright light on the fallacious arguments put forward by those airlines that seek to continue stonewalling against reforms that will benefit passengers and all airline industry stakeholders.”

“There is now a clear expectation that Congress will move to enact legislation to create a national standard beginning with the requirement that airlines provide passengers an option to deplane after three hours," stated BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell.  "Airlines will likely have several months to adjust operations before the law is effective. BTC further encourages Congress to phase-in a two-hour standard 1 year after the initial 3-hour rule becomes effective. Congress should likewise make mandatory the U.S. Department of Transportation Tarmac Delay Task Force recommendations."

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