September 13, 2009
The Honorable Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Boxer,
I write to you to unequivocally support the 3-hour standard that you and Senator Olympia Snowe have championed that would provide airline passengers with an option to disembark after 3 hours of delay, should a captain decide it is safe to do so. Business Travel Coalition (BTC) has recently concluded due diligence, including a month-long survey of travel industry professionals, to determine if it should support passenger rights legislation, and specifically, the 3-hour standard. Some 82 percent of industry professionals support a 3-hour standard, and now so does BTC.
Since 1999, BTC has testified four times in Congress in opposition to passenger rights legislation. In lieu of Congressional intervention in the marketplace, anathema to businesses whose interests BTC represents, BTC called for the voluntary airline Customer Service Plans that were announced in September 1999. In testimony in March of that year, however, as well as in follow-on testimony throughout the years, BTC cautioned that if the airlines do not fix service and extended ground delay problems, someone will eventually endeavor to do so for them.
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. While some airlines have taken limited positive steps on behalf of their customers, at the industry-level airlines appear either unwilling or unable to fix this extended ground delay problem.
Based upon BTC survey and interview results it is clear that the vast majority of travel industry professionals and organizations, including BTC, the National Business Travel Association and the American Society of Travel Agents, have now concluded in this case, i.e. more than 10 years after the infamous Detroit Metro snowstorm debacle, that there is an evident market failure that can only be addressed by government intervention.
Now is the time to legislate a 3-hour national standard for the health and welfare of the traveling public.