Passenger Rights Stakeholder Hearing: Examining a Market Failure?

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September 22, 2009 – Washington, DC

On Tuesday morning, September 22, 2009 consumer groups and travel industry organizations will conduct a Stakeholder Hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building regarding airline passenger rights. The purpose of the hearing is to examine passenger safety-related problems such as extended ground delays. Desired outcomes from the hearing include a better understanding of passenger safety problems; best practices from the EU in the area of passenger protections; and the potential efficacy of proposed Congressional solutions. Experts representing all sides in this debate have been invited to participate in this hearing.

This passenger-safety issue first reached prominence in 1999 after a snowstorm stranded aircraft for up to eight hours at Detroit Metro Airport. The airline industry avoided passenger rights legislation at that time by agreeing to a voluntary customer service initiative, which was soon largely cast off in the aftermath of the industry’s troubles following September 11, 2001. More recently, excessive ground delays in Texas and New York in 2006 and 2007 respectively led to a new round of Congressional hearings and increased calls passenger rights legislation. Such legislative prescriptions are currently included in FAA reauthorization bills in the House and in the Senate, whose version would allow passengers to disembark after three hours delay, should a captain decide it is reasonable and safe to do so.

In addition to audience members attending the hearing, stakeholders will comprise “Witnesses” and “Questioners.” Witness panels will include passengers and airline, airport, association and government executives as well as functional-area experts from acadème and industry. Witnesses will present 5-minute statements. After all statements are made, Questioners will address their queries to each of the Witnesses. Questioners will include corporate travel managers, functional area experts and former DOT IGs. Also joining as Questioners will be members of the press to provide an extra measure of impartiality.

The Stakeholder Hearing will also have a roundtable discussion among Senators and Representatives interested in this issue moderated by a media luminary.

While attendance is free of charge, registration is necessary at and seating is limited.

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