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Airline CEOs Hold News Conference About Promises to Improve Service

Aired June 7, 2001 - 13:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, airline CEOs are having that news conference now in Washington on their commitments, which will be printed on your airline tickets to improve your travel life. Let's listen.

REP. JOHN MICA (R-FL), AVIATION SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: ... the American traveling public. I know many of you who are with me today have been the subject of some harsh criticism recently. Indeed, passengers across the land have been frustrated by airline delays.

Frankly, however -- and we have to be honest -- many of these delays are not the fault of airlines. In fact, an estimated 70 percent of the delays are unavoidable because of weather conditions. And some of the blame really for delays falls on Congress, members of Congress, also on the FAA and other government agencies for failing to improve airport and airway infrastructure in order to keep up with the growth in our air traffic.

Delays at our most congested airports are also caused -- and people should be aware of this -- by local political disputes and the failure of local and state authorities in turn to expand our runway capacity.

I am here to say that we are working on those long-term solutions in those problems. But a lot of that will take time.

While we move forward on some of these long-term solutions like increasing capacity, I have also tried to look wherever we can for short-term solutions to ease passenger frustrations.

This week, I had the pleasure of announcing a public-private initiative between the FAA, Federal Aviation Administration, and CNN to broadcast FAA airport delay information, which will now be posted at 1,600 gates at 35 major airports across the United States. The public will now have on-time, real information that we have at our Air Traffic National Control Center at all of these gates across the land.

For the past several months, we've been meeting with the airline customer service representatives -- again, you see representatives and officials of all of the major airlines here today -- to see what we could do to improve passenger service and some of the complaints that we've had about passenger service. As many of you know, previously the airlines made a voluntary commitment to improve customer service. Last February, the inspector general issued an evaluation of airline compliance with commitments that those airlines had made.

On the whole, I might say -- and I read that report. We questioned the I.G. about it. The inspector general gave the airlines pretty good grades for their performance. But it was clear that more needed to be done.

For example, there was no legal obligation binding on the airlines to implement those voluntary commitments. I am very pleased to announce today that the airlines, and all of them represented here with us, have now made these customer service commitments part of their customer contracts. And you see this little sample contract we put here. It's not valid for flying right now, this particular model.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The price is right.

MICA: One of big differences with what's been said in the past is what's being done and committed here today. Those commitments are now legally binding. They're listed on the contract before me. And we can give you more detail about them.

This has been accomplished without legislation. And, in fact, it demonstrates that government and industry can work together to improve service for our traveling public. Additionally, working with these airlines, they have committed to improving service in other areas. And let me give you just a few of those.

WATERS: OK. That's Representative John Mica with the Aviation Subcommittee divulging the 12 commitments, the promises from the CEOs at the major airlines. We just flashed them on your screen. Among them, notifying customers of known delays, on-time baggage delivery and such. It's not immediately clear what recourse passengers will have if these commitments are not honored, even though Representative Mica says that they are legally binding commitments to improve customer service at the airlines.

We checked just before we went on with this program today about delays. And delays are the big bugaboo in the traveling industry right now. We did some checking and find that delays today are at Los Angeles International Airport. You will find the program persists, despite all of the talk about improving the situation.

You are looking at live picture at LAX, a very familiar sight. A lot of haze today. And we don't know whether or not the haze is responsible for the delays. But they average 27 minutes at the moment, some flights delayed by as much as 56 minutes.

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