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Senator introduces bill to make airlines more accountable

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A senator fed up with flight delays and cancellations introduced the Air Travelers Fair Treatment Act Wednesday.

Senator Harry Reid said the legislation would require airlines to give passengers "accurate and timely" explanations for flight delays or cancellations and make it possible for them to exit an aircraft if the plane stays at its gate for more than an hour beyond the scheduled departure time.

Reid, who also authored the so-called "Air Rage" bill enacted into law last year, said he is not satisfied with the airline industry's response to improve service.

"During this past year, passenger complaints were up 75 percent," the Nevada Democrat told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference. "In the first four months (of this year), they are up 115 percent over last year."

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Reid's legislation would also establish an independent commission to investigate how the airlines structure ticket prices and how those fares affect customer choice, the number of routes available and the quality of service provided.

"This noncompetitive industry needs to price tickets according to cost, not according to how desperate it calculates each customer's need to get home, to take a vacation or to do business in another city," said Mark Silbergeld, co-director of Consumers Union's Washington office, who supports the bill.

Major U.S. carriers voluntarily enacted passenger-rights plans in December, staving off government regulation. As part of the pledge, they promised to respond to complaints faster, provide on-time baggage delivery, offer the lowest fares available, and give more information on delays and cancellations.

A review of the plans, released last month by the Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General, stated: "We found the airlines are making a clear and genuine effort at strengthening the attention paid to customer service, but bottom-line results to date are mixed, and the airlines have a ways to go to restore customer confidence."



RELATED STORIES:
Federal report gives mixed reviews to airline service efforts
June 27, 2000
Early reviews mixed for airlines' passenger rights plan
January 19, 2000
Airlines draft plan for passenger treatment
June 10, 1999

RELATED SITES:
U.S. Senate
Transportation Department: Office of Inspector General
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