More fallout from ExpressJet Airlines 2816 fiasco: The National Business Travel Association has thrown its weight behind a “turn back” rule for airlines, a remarkable reversal for an organization with a consistent pro-business and often pro-airline record.
The move leaves the US airline industry almost entirely friendless in Washington, at least when it comes to passenger rights legislation being considered by Congress, and it may be one of the final nails in the coffin of efforts to keep the government from regulating the controversial tarmac delays that have attracted so much public attention recently.
NBTA’s move is significant, because its members apparently demanded that the organization change its position after the Continental/ExpressJet tarmac delay, in which passengers were forced to spend the night on a tiny regional jet parked near a gate in Rochester, Minn.
Kevin Maguire, NBTA’s president, expains:
For years, the business travel industry believed the airlines and the federal government would work together to fix the problems that led to excessive tarmac delays, but enough is enough.
When we’ve got travelers stuck on planes sitting on the tarmac overnight, it’s clear the problem has spun out of control, and legislation is the best solution. We need to hold the airlines to a ‘bright-line’ rule that respects the basic humanity of passengers by preventing airlines from keeping them captive, which is exactly what the Snowe-Boxer language will do.
Maguire’s language reflects the sentiments of my colleague, Consumer Travel Alliance president Charlie Leocha, who went a step further today, calling on the government to punish the airline CEOs for tarmac delays.
The only question now is: Who’s next?
NBTA is the largest business travel organization. It’s unclear if the second-largest business travel group, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, has taken a position on this issue.
Now would be the time, of course, for the membership organizations in Washington — those representing the interests of everyone from travel agents to destinations — to take a stand for their customers.
NBTA is showing some leadership on this important issue. Who will join it?
(Photo: caribb/Flickr Creative Commons)