Passenger Rights Hearing Adds Witnesses

The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and FlyersRights.org announced additions to their lineup of witnesses for the Passenger Rights Stakeholder Hearing scheduled for September 22 in Washington, D.C.

Joining the lineup as witnesses will be James M. Crites, executive vice president of operations for Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and Scott Nason, former vice president of revenue management at American Airlines and current aviation and travel industry consultant for SDN TT&H Consulting, LLC.

The purpose of the private-sector sponsored hearing is to examine all sides the extended-ground-delay debate. The two groups will also probe U.S. DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

“I am grateful that the agenda and hearing lineup are so robust beginning with Robert L. Crandall, former chairman and CEO, American Airlines and now with the additions of highly regarded Messrs Crites and Nason,” said BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell. "Members of Congress and their staffs returning from recess to find passengers-rights legislation a priority will have an opportunity to hear the first-hand and unfiltered accounts of airline passengers as well as the considered views of functional-area experts both in support of and opposed to Congressional intervention."

Of concern, the BTC said is the U.S. DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics this week released their monthly tarmac-time statistics for July that immediately drew attention from analysts, for what they did not reveal. For the nine months DOT/BTS has reported tarmac-time-related results associated with diverted flights, at least four large airlines indicated that in a majority of these kinds of events, passengers were not allowed off the aircraft.

“Curiously, the report this week from DOT/BTS now claims that in each and every diverted-flight event of three hours or more for July, passengers were allowed off the aircraft 100 percent of the time," Mitchel said. "The data would appear inaccurate, especially given personal-passenger accounts of diverted flights in July. This raises serious questions about the integrity of the BTS reporting process and underlying data, and will be the subject of review during the September 22 Stakeholder Hearing."

“FlyersRights.org fought hard to have DOT/BTS commence reporting tarmac-time results for diverted and canceled flights as well as multi-gate returns," said FlyersRights.org executive director Kate Hanni. "The express purpose of this push was to provide consumers and policymakers alike with a clear picture of the scope of the negative impact on passengers traveling through the U.S. aviation system. These misleading July data suggest to lawmakers returning to Washington this week that the problem of inadequate response to diverted fight delays had been fixed (or at least until the August Rochester, MN and NYC debacles). Something just does not add up, and we will endeavor to get to the bottom of this."

While attendance for the September 22 Passenger Rights Hearing is free of charge, registration is necessary at http://eventbrite.twi.bz/b as seating is strictly limited. For additional analysis on the extended tarmac delay problem, see a BTC September 8, 2009 report at http://businesstravelcoalition.twi.bz/t.

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