Airline Customer Disservice
Congressional Oversight & ATO Privatization
Most of the airlines (except Delta) and A4A have invested major political capital in the soon-to-be introduced FAA air traffic control privatization/corporatization or whatever label is the de rigueur jargon for the advocates. Central to this transition from the Executive Branch and Congressional control is the creation of an industry Board to govern the ATO.
The argument proffered that the implementation of the future ATC navigation and communication system, NextGen, has been badly harmed by the FAA’s existence within the Administration and under the financial limits established by Congress. It is said that having a set of governors (big airlines, regional airlines, GA/BA, airline labor, ATO labor and an appointee of the Secretary of Transportation) must do better than the abysmal track record of the last 30 years.
Last week, the House and then the Senate held hearings on the airlines managing their basic business—passenger service. Note this is a sphere of their operations for which they were granted total deregulation in 1978. After almost 40 years of no government oversight or regulation, Congress lectured the executives about how incredibly poorly they are treating (“beating”?) their customers.
The unhappy faces of the House Aviation subcommittee signify great displeasure about this unfettered treatment of the airline customers and the Members constituents.
To show how well the airlines took their criticism, their trade association replied in this article: Airlines are taking action: Opposing view.
Specifically, they cited a poll, taking contemporaneously with these incidents:
The recent American Customer Satisfaction Index Travel Report suggests we have made progress. Improvements include better online booking and check-in processes, innovative baggage-handling technology and timely text alerts to keep passengers informed. We look forward to building on these improvements because they make a difference in the customer experience.
Passengers will hold carriers accountable to their recent commitments without the government’s meddling.
So, in several weeks or even months when the next FAA Reauthorization Bill, including some form of A4A’s preferred governance and funding of the new ATO, will be considered, do you think that the frowns of the above-pictured members will turn to smiles? Having demonstrated less than excellent exercise of the freedom to service their passengers, do you think that the Congress will be confident in turning the management of the ATO to these same executives?
Add to that observation the following thoughts:
• The idea of privatization was introduced about 5 years ago.
• Since then the proponents have tried to convince the opponents that privatization is a win/win option—to no avail.
• Congress could structure the ATO, Inc. Board in three basic configurations:
(a) An airline heavy representation,
(b) A GA/BA strong influence, or
(c) Completely balanced.
• (b) seems unlikely; heavy opposition, particularly in the Senate, has been announced to the (a) option; so, (c) seems to be the likely Congressional choice.
○ Under (c), the ATO, Inc. Board would have difficulty coming to a consensus and complete stagnation is predictable.
Really, really bad timing!!!
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