Reuters reported yesterday that the DOT will review this month’s service meltdown at Jetblue and December’s incident at American. The review will include the airlines’ customer service contracts and policies on ground delays and any recommendation could extend to airlines as a whole as well as the air traffic control system, and its operator, the FAA. Other major airlines have agreed to review their policies in an attempt to head off legislation.
While is it likely any serious legislation may wait until this report is complete, Congress is being lobbied to do something now. Reuters pointed out last week that millions of passengers are stuck on planes on the ground every year in the US with nearly 60,000 departures delayed between one and two hours in 2006. More than 1000 planes experiences delays of at least three hours and only 36 were stuck for more than five hours. These figures have remained constant for many years.
“Critical mass has now been reached…The flight crews are the best in the world, accidents are rare. It is management that is abusing people, and the government must step in and force standards of decent behavior on these people,” declared Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly. And as Joel Connelly pointed out…”And for once — just this once — even the most free-thinking secular progressive has to agree with the guy.”
We will see what comes out of Congress…or if the government once again withdraws as the airlines promise to legislate themselves. The Air Transport Association suggested that the FAA should be forced to allow delayed flights to return to the terminal without forcing those planes to lose their place in line for takeoff.