THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release
March 10, 1999
VICE PRESIDENT GORE AND SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION SLATER ANNOUNCE AIRLINE PASSENGER FAIR TREATMENT INITIATIVEWashington, D.C. --Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today unveiled the Airline Passenger Fair Treatment Initiative to ensure that airline consumers are treated fairly before, during and after a flight, to provide more information for passengers before making ticket purchases and stiffening penalties for unfair treatment.
"Our Fair Treatment Initiative doesn't tell airlines what to do," Vice President Gore said. "Instead, it empowers passengers with all the information they need to make good decisions. These decisions will then drive the market and in turn, drive competition between airlines, which ultimately will result in better customer service for everyone."
The Clinton-Gore initiative combines a legislative proposal, new regulatory authority and a call for increased enforcement resources to address the growing incidence of mistreatment of airline passengers.
Under the legislation, airlines would be required to publicly disclose their policies regarding flight delays, cancellations and diversions, provisions for such things as food, water and restroom facilities for passengers during ground delays, evacuation procedures for extended delays and bumping. Airlines would be required to provide notices on lower-priced ticket outlets and identify an airline company official responsible for responding to consumer complaints.
Airlines would also be required to make these policies available, for example, through their Internet websites and develop a plan for training workers to carry out the consumer response plan.
Additionally, they would be required to make monthly filings with DOT regarding the number of complaints received in 15 categories. The complaint information would be released to the public through the DOT's consumer website and other means.
Under new regulations adopted today, airlines must now disclose to passengers at the time of ticket purchase any code-sharing arrangements and any need to change planes at the time the passenger purchases a ticket. Code-sharing is the practice by which an airline sells tickets under its own name for a flight operated by a partnering airline. Frequently, however, passengers do not realize they are not flying on the carrier from which they purchased the ticket, that the operator of the airline is different from the person from whom they bought their ticket, or are unaware of the need to change planes to a different carrier, often at unfamiliar, foreign airports.
Real compensation would be provided for passengers who are not treated fairly. The legislation would double the minimum compensation passengers currently receive from being bumped from oversold flights and the payments they receive for lost baggage.
Additionally, for the first time, passengers will receive fair treatment by the establishment of guidelines requiring airlines to respond to all written complaints within 60 days. Specific time limits would be set for refunds. And, airlines will be required to make their best efforts to return lost baggage within 24 hours.
To ensure appropriate enforcement resources, the initiative would provide increased staff in DOT.
The DOT legislative proposal is available via the Internet at tabula.ost.dot.gov.