Laugh all you want, the phrase is not an oxymoron like "military
intelligence" or "British cuisine." There is good airline service
out there. We get it about 90% of the time. Unfortunately, most of
us fly just enough to end up in the wrong 10% once in a while, so
all of us have experienced the bad stuff.
So has every member of Congress. Thus, in an election year, it
should come as no surprise to anyone that airline bashing is back
in vogue in Washington.
The Transportation Department's inspector general recently
delivered an interim report on how well the airlines are living up
to their promises to improve customer service. Predictably, the
report said the airlines aren't making enough progress. (Did
anybody seriously expect the DOT to say it no longer has to stand
watch?) This, of course, gives Congress just enough ammunition to
issue the ultimate election-year threat: "Shape up or we'll pass a
The two major travel agency associations, ASTA and ARTA, were
quick to recommend that Congress do just that, enact a new
passenger rights bill.
We understand the desire of the leaders of ASTA and ARTA to
position their organizations as friends of the consumer in the
battle against the big bad airlines.
ASTA and ARTA might do well to remember that their dues-paying
members are not consumers, but the owners and managers of small
businesses who should place about as much trust in elected
politicians as they do in airline revenue accounting
The Congress that can tell the airlines to deliver lost baggage
in 24 hours and to hand out written guarantees to passengers is the
same Congress that can tell travel agents to register, take a test,
disclose their override agreements to clients, post a list of the
fam trips they've taken, or guarantee that the resort they just
booked is everything the slick brochure said it would be.
Do we really want to go there?