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Senate bills aim to improve air travel


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Expressing frustration with airline delays and cancellations, Senator Harry Reid introduced two bills Monday that he said will improve the quality of airline travel.

The Nevada Democrat cited government statistics that show airline delays have risen by 58 percent over the last four years and cancellations are up by 68 percent over the same period.

Reid said in the first nine months of 2000, one in every four flights was canceled, delayed or diverted, with the average delay nearly one hour. And he said industry consolidation is making matters worse.

Just a year ago, the airlines promised to improve service when members of Congress, including Reid, threatened legislation.


"We were told immediately by all the carriers that things would get better," Reid said. "But for those of us who travel, we know things haven't gotten better."

Bill would broaden passengers' rights

One of Reid's bills, the Air Travelers Fair Treatment Act, would give passengers new rights, including the right to accurate information about flight delays, cancellations or diversions.

It would also give travelers the right to exit an airplane after it's been on the ground for more than an hour past its scheduled departure time and a right to in-flight medical care. And it would allow travelers to review an airline's safety record.

"For those of us who fly a lot and are stuck at gates, we feel after an hour, you should be able to say, 'OK, I've had enough. I want off here,'" Reid said.

The other, the Airline Competition Preservation Act of 2001, would put the transportation secretary in charge of keeping the airline industry competitive and prices from getting "unreasonably high".

Reid was joined by representatives of Consumers Union and the American Society of Travel Agents who support his legislation.

Last year Reid and Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced legislation cracking down on air travelers, but both backed off when the airlines agreed to voluntary measures.

Just how well those airlines are doing will be the subject of a report due later this week from the inspector general of the Department of Transportation.

Senator introduces bill to make airlines more accountable
July 20, 2000
Federal report gives mixed reviews to airline service efforts
June 27, 2000
Early reviews mixed for airlines' passenger rights plan
January 19, 2000
Airlines draft plan for passenger treatment
June 10, 1999

Consumers Union
American Society of Travel Agents

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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