Business Travel Coalition (BTC) has joined with FlyersRights.org in calling for passenger rights legislation that would require a 3-hour airline deplaning rule, following a survey it conducted that demonstrates what BTC says is a sea change in U.S. business travel industry participants’ desire for such legislation.
Altogether, an “overwhelming” 82 per cent of respondents to BTC’s survey of travel industry professionals and business travelers supported legislative language championed by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), according to BTC. The proposed legislation includes an option for passengers to disembark after 3 hours of onboard delay for domestic U.S. flights, should a captain decide it is reasonable and safe to do so.
BTC and FlyersRights.org say that, after 10 years of Congressional pressure on airlines and highly unfavorable press reports of nightmarish delays and conditions for passengers, the response by the airline industry has been uneven ― and this has been confirmed in reports by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General to Congress.
“BTC testified 4 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. So-called federal preemption was emplaced long ago to prevent a patchwork of oversight regulations,” says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of BTC.
“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,” says Mitchell.
The two passenger-advocacy organizations say there are always benefits and drawbacks from any public policy decision ― some anticipated, and some not. 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, they add.
“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,” the two organizations say in a September 7, 2009 news release announcing their cooperation and the results of the BTC survey.
“FlyersRights.org and BTC have been jointly analyzing the implications of a 3-hour standard. 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,” says Kate Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org.