With convictions about as convincing as a pilots' sickout and as
substantial as an in-flight "snack," national politicians are
threatening to make air passengers' rights a campaign issue early
in the 2000 presidential race.
Before you know it, we'll have debating wanna-bes accusing one
another of being soft on hidden-city ticketing, with the sad
prospect that an important issue will be trivialized in the maw of
the political process.
Vice President Al Gore, for one, weighed in with his Airline
Passenger Fair Treatment Initiative last week, a wide-ranging
manifesto of legislation and regulations adroitly crafted to
engender more public support than, say, a Be Kind to Airlines Bill
or a Keep America Safe for Monopolies measure.
A few weeks earlier, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who may or may
not be running for higher office, beat the VP to the aid and
comfort of the ballot-bearing flyer by cosponsoring the Airlines
Passengers Fairness Act.
Still to be heard from -- and don't think you won't -- are
Democratic challenger Bill Bradley and Republicans Elizabeth Dole,
George W. Bush et al.
Just because politicians are scrambling to co-opt one of the few
issues on which the voting public seems to agree -- that the
airlines continue to treat consumers cavalierly -- is no reason to
dismiss the predictable rhetorical din as so much campaign
There is a serious movement afoot to promote competition and get
the airlines to do right, so it should surprise no one that astute
politicians are jumping on the bandwagon.
Whatever comes of the burgeoning interest in this hot-button
issue, we can only hope that the burden of any new rules and
regulations falls squarely where it belongs, on the airlines, and
not on travel agents, a group that long has championed the public's
demands for a more equitable and competitive transportation