Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Flight Delay Ruling Comes in Wake of Consumer Complaints / but, Not Made to Head off Congressional Action, Dole Says

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Flight Delay Ruling Comes in Wake of Consumer Complaints / but, Not Made to Head off Congressional Action, Dole Says

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - People planning airplane trips will soon be able to learn how often the flights they are considering arrive on time, under a ruling this week by Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole.

``The American people have the right to truth in airline scheduling,'' Dole said in announcing the long-expected ruling.

The ruling, which will require by early next year that the information on flight delays be available at travel agencies or airline ticket offices, comes amid rising consumer complaints and efforts in Congress to pass laws seeking to improve airline service and safety.

It also requires that comparative statistics be provided on how often airlines lose, delay or damage baggage.

Responding to a question at a news conference, Dole said that ``it's just not accurate'' to suggest that she was acting to head off congressional action. Rather, she said, the ruling was issued, because it had taken some time to devise.

However, Rep. Guy V. Molinari, R-N.Y., said Dole's action was too late.

``Congress is in a rather ugly mood,'' he added, predicting swift passage of a package of airline bills in the House. The bills would establish fines for airlines that had poor performance records and would require that the airlines and the government establish toll-free telephone numbers for the public to register complaints.

The ruling applies to the nation's 14 largest airlines, which account for 63 percent of all flights and 90 percent of all domestic airline revenue. Dole said its impact would be felt virtually by all passengers because airlines not covered by the ruling generally have connecting flights with those that are covered.

Starting Oct. 15, airlines will be required to begin submitting on-time performance records of their flights to the operators of computerized ticket reservation systems, the main source of information to travel agents. In addition, the performance records will be required to be entered in the airlines' own computer systems so travelers dealing directly with the airlines could ask about them.

Each flight will be accompanied by a one-digit performance code indicating the percentage of time the flight arrived on schedule. A code of 7, for example, would indicate that the flight had arrived within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time from 70 to 79.9 percent of the time.

With this information, Dole said, a traveler can select the airline with the best on-time performance record, thereby encouraging airlines to improve their service.

All data should be in the computer systems shortly after Christmas, she said. …

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