PRESS STATEMENT

For Immediate Release

 

SOUTHWEST’S MAINTENANCE LAPSES TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Culturally Dysfunctional FAA Has Lost Its Oversight Bearings

Senate Gridlock on FAA Reauthorization Bill Places Nation at Risk

Radnor, PA., March 16, 2008--Business Travel Coalition (BTC) today lauded Southwest Airlines for reversing its surprise plans to outsource aircraft structural repairs to El Salvador as reported by Bloomberg News on Friday, March 14. The decision was prudent as the airline would no doubt have received deeper scrutiny about its maintenance outsourcing practices. Southwest’s stock price spiked up after the Bloomberg report underscoring the market’s growing unease about cut-rate aircraft maintenance outsourcing that has exploded in recent years, and the flying public’s growing awareness and alarm over it.

BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell stated, “Once corporate travel managers and individual consumers are fully knowledgeable about the increasing scope and risks associated with outsourcing as well as an utterly failed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight program, they will likely curtail air travel and otherwise shift their contracts and bookings to those carriers committed to continuous expansion of safety margins. This is fast becoming a duty-of-care issue for major corporations and bad news for airlines facing a slowing economy.”  

The problem according to BTC, however, is not an airline one per se; it is a culturally dysfunctional FAA that has long ago lost its regulatory and oversight bearings. When exposed to an unforgiving marketplace, some airlines have and will continue to subordinate passenger safety to other commercial priorities, sometimes just to survive. That’s why there is a federal regulator. The Southwest debacle is merely a symptom of a grave and systemic illness at the FAA that indicts the entire system where “Exhibit A” is FAA administrators referring to the airlines as their “customers.”  

The U.S. Congress now finds itself at the intersection of a failed FAA; a misguided airline industry cost-cutting practice; and the passenger. Congress as the final authority with responsibility to protect the public must act when a regulatory agency has stopped functioning. Regrettably, a leadership crisis in Congress over the FAA Reauthorization bill is placing airline passengers and U.S. homeland security at great risk. (A concise analysis of aircraft maintenance outsourcing problems, effects, causes and solutions with respect to passenger safety and homeland security can be found here .) 

Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has once again demonstrated decisive leadership on behalf of passengers in launching investigations and conducting hearings concerning aircraft maintenance outsourcing and problems at the FAA. The House has also passed its version of a FAA Reauthorization bill containing important measures to address what is a growing aircraft maintenance outsourcing emergency. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has likewise been deeply concerned about this outsourcing issue and steadfast in her leadership to bring about reform through measures she had emplaced in the Senate version of the Reauthorization bill.

“Inexcusably, the Reauthorization bill is stalled in the Senate over a $25.00 landing fee, to balance out the financing of the system, while a vividly clear and present danger to passengers and our homeland increases daily. If this Senate impasse is not resolved in coming weeks, there will be no Reauthorization bill for at least another year," stated Mitchell. “This failure of leadership on such a strategically important issue to this country is regrettable. There is simply no problem in commercial air transportation today of greater consequence facing the government, industry and consumer. BTC calls on Senate leadership to help resolve this gridlock and move the Reauthorization bill forward. Importantly, Congress should add to the bill a directive to the National Academy of Sciences, Transportation Research Board, to perform a top-down review of the FAA.”

For additional background on this issue visit BTC's Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Issue Center.

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CONTACT BTC || Kevin Mitchell | 610.341.1850 | mitchell@BusinessTravelCoalition.com

Founded in 1994, the mission of Business Travel Coalition is to bring transparency to industry and government policies and practices so that customers can influence issues of strategic importance to their organizations.