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Fri, Nov 13, 2009

DOT Forum Thursday Looks To 'Fix' Airline Industry

Meeting Closed To Public And Media

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called a closed-door meeting Thursday that he hopes will be the first step towards "fixing" the airline industry. He invitation to aviation stakeholders says the forum was organized at the request of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department. It was not open to the public, or the press.

The Associated Press reports that Ed Wytkind, the Trades Department President, said he hopes the Obama Administration will create a "blue ribbon panel" to look into the industry, which he says has become dysfunctional, and recommend solutions. He said that should "probably" include new federal regulation of the airline industry.

Some say that deregulation has offered passengers lower fares, but at the cost of reduced safety. AP says a report from a watchdog organization found that nine major airlines outsouce 70% of their maintenance work, and some of that is offshore where it is difficult for U.S. inspectors to guarantee the quality of the work.

Still, Pat Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants told AP that she is not necessarily in favor of the kinds of regulations that were in effect prior to 1978. She said some "tweaking" of regulations might be necessary.  Airlines contend that they are still heavily regulated, and taxed.

While the media was shut out of the meeting, the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) Thursday released prepared remarks from its presentation at the forum. "If cheap intercity mass air transportation was the only objective advocates of deregulation sought to achieve, then success has been realized," the organization said in the statement.

"The American people deserve a little respect for their ability to handle the truth and make rational choices," BTC said in the release. They called for a debate over air transportation public policy objectives, "even if it's 30-some years overdue."

FMI: www.dot.gov, www.businesstravelcoalition.com

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