U.S. Travel Association Says Airlines Should Put Passengers First

April 11, 2017 Smart Meetings

A slew of recent air-travel incidents have created public backlash against several airlines. The most recent episode involves a passenger onboard a United Airlines flight out of Chicago. The passenger reportedly was asked to vacate his seat on the overbooked flight to make room for United Airlines flight crew.

The passenger refused, and was dragged off the plane by an aviation security officer. The humiliating incident was recorded on video and then posted on social media sites. It launched a public outcry against the airline and the officer, who has since been placed on leave pending investigation.

The incident comes in the wake of another United Airlines embarrassment involving two young girls wearing leggings. A United boarding agent refused to allow the girls to board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis because both were wearing Spandex leggings. Although the agent was following an obscure airline procedure, the incident caused a public outcry after the story went viral.

Recognizing the need for calm, Jonathan Grella, executive vice president for public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association, recently posted a statement calling on airlines to recognize the value of their customers—business and leisure air travelers alike.

“For days, the airwaves have been filled with negative stories about airlines,” Grella said. “The common denominator here is that air travel has become all too unpleasant for scores of travelers. While airlines tout record profits generated on the backs of their passengers, many are left stranded with few to no options. Years of over-consolidation, compounded by policymaking favoring the airlines rather than the travelers they serve, has led to a broken system that needs to be fixed.”

Grella’s timely statement arrives as airlines cope with increased U.S. government regulations and tighter restrictions on everything from carry-on luggage to personal electronic devices. The United States and United Kingdom recently announced that laptops, tablet computers and computer games would be banned from specified flights to the U.S. and U.K. from certain North African and Middle Eastern countries, prompting some airlines to offer business-class travelers loaner laptops.

In an open letter to President Donald Trump, the U.S. Travel Association requested an Open Skies policy to ease restrictions against targeted ethnic groups and to implore governments to minimize interference in air travel. The most recent incident involving a passenger removed from an overbooked flight supports the association’s criticisms of an industry with misdirected priorities.

“Airlines that obstruct airport infrastructure improvements and growth or advocate the undoing of our nation’s Open Skies policies should use this moment to consider how to make the system better, not worse, with more choice and connectivity for all,” Grella said. “It’s time Washington ‘re-accommodate’ the proverbial fox from the henhouse and put passengers and their experiences first in the equation.”

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