As Congress returns from its summer recess, The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) joined with FlyersRights.org in advocating passenger rights legislation by releasing survey results that underscore a sea change in thinking in the business travel industry. An overwhelming 82 percent of travel industry professionals and business travelers now support legislation with a three-hour limit on tarmac delays, the BTC said.
Legislation sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowed (R-ME) includes an option for passengers to disembark after three hours of onboard delay for domestic U.S. flights, should a captain decide it is reasonable and safe to do so.
After 10 years of Congressional pressure on airlines, as well as highly unfavorable press reports of nightmarish delays and conditions for passengers, the response by the airline industry has been uneven, as confirmed in U.S. DOT Inspector General reports to Congress, the BTC noted.
“BTC testified four times since 1999 in opposition to Congressional intervention, and opposed the New York State Passenger Bill of Rights that would have led to disparate passenger rights standards in every state," said BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell. "So-called federal preemption was emplaced long ago to prevent a patchwork of oversight regulations. However, airlines can no longer have it both ways; consumers continue to be harmed and are without protections at the state level. As such, the only remaining remedy is a single passenger-rights standard emplaced by a Congress that needs to do for passengers what the airlines have refused to do.
"There are always benefits and drawbacks from any public policy decision, some anticipated, and some not," Mitchell continued. "The central question is whether the problem is worth solving at a governmental level, and on balance, if the solution would likely generate public policy benefits sufficient to effectively solve the problem. Currently, the airline industry policy of denying there is problem is generating its own set of serious unintended consequences, including negative impacts on the health and welfare of passengers, lost productivity for business travelers and diminished airline brand quality."
“FlyersRights.org and BTC have been jointly analyzing the implications of a 3-hour standard," said FlyersRights.org executive director Kate Hanni. "Our organizations are not trying to solve, for example, for all 613 of reported 3 plus-hour extended tarmac delay problems from January through June 2009, just the 80% represented by the recent Rochester, MN event. We have identified significant benefits for all stakeholders that will likely flow from a single 3-hour standard that encourages a reengineering of current airline and airport systems and processes. Benefits include helping solve the NYC-area airport congestion conundrum."
The complete BTC analysis can be found at http://businesstravelcoalition.twi.bz/t.