MoonDawg's Den: Airline rights versus safety

MoonDawg's Den

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Airline rights versus safety

JetBlue Airways has rolled out a "Customer Bill of Rights" after the airline suffered a full week of weather related cancellations, including widely reported incidents of passengers being stranded on the tarmac at New York's JFK airport for six to ten hours straight. However, some are looking to the federal government to legislate a bill of rights for airline customers, apparently not trusting the carriers to regulate themselves. Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition says that "government involvement with airline customer service" is a bad idea, and warns that "It is imprudent to mix financial incentives and penalties with airline operations, go, no-go decisions and safety judgments":

On February 19, 2005, the No. 2 engine of a Boeing 747 failed after take off from LAX on a flight to Heathrow with 351 passengers on board. The captain decided to continue anyway with 3 engines. Because it was unable to attain normal cruising speeds and altitudes, the aircraft was forced to divert to Manchester, England. Under European Union passenger rights legislation, had the plane returned to LAX, BA would have had to compensate passengers some $250,000. BA denies that the penalty influenced its go, no go decision.

Sure, a quarter of a million bucks was on the line, but that never entered into the pilot's consideration at all. Imagine this scenario being played out in thousands of marginal situations around the US each year, with flight crews and airline management having to worry about government-imposed penalties when making operational decisions.

With most carriers already drowning in red ink, it is a certainty that situations will arise where financial considerations will trump safety concerns. As Mitchell says, "It would be tragic if in an effort to re-regulate passenger service, we inadvertently undermined our airline industry’s laudable safety record."

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  • Why can't the government just butt out of decisions like this?

    Good post, Garry.

    By Blogger Jeff, At 7:30 PM, February 22, 2007  

  • I agree. So, so lame. As if an airplane pilot needs some kind of external motivation to do his job right.

    The government is becoming more and more like the paranoid, control-freak parent that I'm afraid I'm becoming sometimes.

    By Blogger NoSurfGirl, At 1:16 AM, February 26, 2007  

  • The government is becoming more and more like the paranoid, control-freak parent that I'm afraid I'm becoming sometimes.

    Am imagining a future day when Nancy Pelosi spanks me & sends me to bed without supper...

    By Blogger Garry, At 2:42 PM, February 26, 2007  

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