Coronavirus , Airline Fees, Top Aviation Subcommittee’s Hearing Agenda

March 4, 2020 by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON – William McGee, an aviation consultant had a simple, overarching message for the members of the House Aviation subcommittee on Tuesday.

“If you’re not in premium class or an Elite Frequent Flier, watch out,” he said.

McGee was one of three witnesses to appear before the house panel during a session entitled “The Airline Passenger Experience: What It Is and What It Can Be.” 

The subcommittee’s goal was to explore ways in which Congress and the airline industry can together foster innovation to benefit the general public.

It was the first such hearing in years  aimed to promote “a safe, comfortable and dignified travel experience,” according to Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash.

Though air travel has both revolutionized the world and become second-nature, not all customers enjoy the same aviation experience.  

“The quality of airlines’ operational performance has improved over the last decade, including upgraded baggage tracking delays and voluntary compensation for passengers during delays,” said Andrew Von Ah, director of physical Infrastructure for the Government Accountability Office.

But Von Ah went on to say there is still a lack of consistency across airlines when it comes to customer experience.

For instance, he said, “Complaints [of accessibility, discrimination] have steadily increased over the last decade by 10%, with a specific uptick in the last few years.”

Chief among these complaints is accessibility. Fifty-seven million Americans have a disability, and need mobility assistance, or emotional support and service animals to fly.  

Yet commercial air is the only mode of transportation where mobility challenged customers must surrender their assistive devices to travel.  

At the same time, only 4.5% of the fleet of the eight major airlines have lavatories — like SpaceFlexOne — accessible to people in wheelchairs, despite plane manufacturers having these products on the market today, and available for new builds or retrofittings. 

“Systematic change is needed, not [to be offered] more bonus miles,” said Lee Page, senior associate advocacy director for Paralyzed Veterans of America, describing his own flight experience as a permanently disabled passenger. 

“All too often, DOT serves the interest of the airlines, not the flying public,” said McGee.

And while it wasn’t the focus of the hearing, COVID-19 was top of mind.  

“Right now, one of the things on people’s minds is Coronavirus,”said Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La.  “Aviation travel needs to be as safe as possible.”

“Five years ago, GAO recommended, in response to Ebola, that DOT establish an aviation plan for communicable disease outbreaks and it hasn’t happened,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, calling again for the creation of that plan. 

Panelists, however, discouraged the general public from being afraid of flying.  

“It is completely safe to fly right now,” said Dr. Joe Leader, CEO of the Airline Passenger Experience Association. “There hasn’t been a traceable transmission on aircraft to this date.”

In The News

Health

Voting

Travel

US Warns Against All Travel to Japan as Olympics Approach
Travel
US Warns Against All Travel to Japan as Olympics Approach
May 24, 2021
by TWN Staff

U.S. health officials and the State Department warned Americans this week against travel to Japan because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, which is preparing to host the Olympics in just two months. The alerts don’t ban U.S. citizens from visiting the country,... Read More

Transportation Official Says Security is Good for Airline Travel
Travel
Transportation Official Says Security is Good for Airline Travel
May 6, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- A top Transportation Security Administration official gave an upbeat outlook to Congress Wednesday for a return to normal travel habits as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides in the United States. He said the agency would continue its pandemic health and safety procedures but did not... Read More

Airbnb Trends Show Boom in Staycations This Memorial Day
Travel
Airbnb Trends Show Boom in Staycations This Memorial Day
April 23, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck

A recent "trends" report from Airbnb suggests that the ongoing roll out of the coronavirus vaccine is spurring a renewed interest in travel, particularly when it comes to "open air" or "off-the-grid" locations.  In fact, the online rental marketplace said it is witnessing something of a... Read More

Lower Employment Figures Spur Concern for Airline Industry
Travel
Lower Employment Figures Spur Concern for Airline Industry
April 19, 2021
by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON — As the industry continues to rally back from the lifting of pandemic travel restrictions, some passenger airline companies are still struggling to retain full-time employees. February employment figures for airlines were down nearly 1% from January, according to a monthly report by the Department... Read More

Tourism Industry, Still Weak, Looking for Help
Travel
Tourism Industry, Still Weak, Looking for Help
April 14, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy is continuing its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but not fast enough for tourism officials who testified before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday. They said their industry was the hardest hit during the pandemic shutdown and will be one of the slowest... Read More

U.S. Airline Struggles Continue a Year After Onset of Pandemic
Travel
U.S. Airline Struggles Continue a Year After Onset of Pandemic
April 13, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - U.S. airlines carried 61% fewer passengers in February 2021 than in February 2020, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Transportation Department. The analysis, which was carried out by the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, suggests airlines serving U.S. passengers are still a long... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top