US Airways backs DOT Inspector

US Airways has added its voice to other airlines that support the efforts of the U.S.
Department of Transportation Inspector General, advising airlines,
airports and government agencies on steps to improve customer comfort during
long on-board flight delays. “Customer safety and service are the guiding principles that govern all that we do,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom. “With winter weather right around the corner, we applaud the Inspector General for working with airlines and other entities that play a part in airport logistics. We know we all have to work together to find the best outcome to minimizing long on-board delays and making sure customers are safe and comfortable when a long on-board delay cannot be avoided.

“Our policies are aimed at ensuring that our customers’ safety and comfort are always at the forefront of our decisions, and that we take all considerations into account when deciding whether to return an airplane to the gate during a long delay,” Isom said.

Most of the recommendations released by the Inspector General in late September were already in place at US Airways and are available in the “Customers First” section of US Airways’ web site, http://www.usairways.com. Highlights include:

  —Defining “Long Delay”: The Inspector General asked airlines to define
what constitutes a “long delay.” US Airways’ definition of a long delay
starts at one hour from the time an aircraft pushes back from the gate.
After one hour, real-time, automated systems alert operations managers
so that the airline can manage the situation quickly and with accurate
information.  While away from the gate, US Airways flight crews deliver
status updates to passengers onboard the aircraft every 15 minutes.
  —Setting a time limit on delay durations before deplaning passengers: US
Airways’ flights may be returned to the gate at any point during a
delay depending on each flight’s specific situation.  At three hours,
information about the flight is escalated through US Airways’ senior
operations management for a decision about returning to the gate.
Inputs into that decision-making are based on situation-specific
factors such as customer safety and comfort, airport capabilities and
crew status.
  —Assessing long on-board delays and working with FAA, airlines and
airports to identify trends and mitigate flight disruptions: US Airways
today reviews every long on-board delay and seeks out customer feedback
to find ways to improve service during flight delays.
  —Tracking historically delayed flights and establishing specific targets
to reduce chronically late flights:  The airline regularly tracks
often-delayed or cancelled flights and generates a plan of action to
reduce such occurrences, even adjusting its schedule if appropriate.
  —Making on-time performance data available to the public:  The Inspector
General recommended that airlines release historical on-time
performance data for individual flights to customers. US Airways has
this tool in place today, consistent with DOT guidelines for mainline
and US Airways Express flights.  Customers can find this information at
http://www.usairways.com or request it from a reservations agent.
  —Participating in industry, airport and FAA task forces:  US Airways
participates in several committees and subcommittees addressing long
on-board delays and improvement initiatives, and will continue to play
a significant role going forward.
  —Working with airports to mitigate impacts of long delays:  Each station
in the US Airways system has a detailed plan for handling long on-board
delays and coordinates with airport authorities.
  —Reporting to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) all on-time
performance to capture all events, such as flight diversions, that
result in delays:  US Airways reports all events resulting in long
on-board delays, such as flight diversions, to BTS as required.
  —Establishing a formal audit program:  US Airways currently audits
long-delayed flights within individual departments.  The airline will reinstitute a formal companywide audit program in 2008.

Isom concluded, “Long on-board delays are rare but when they do occur, they are frustrating for customers and airlines alike. We continuously look for better ways to ensure our customers and employees are taken care of when they regrettably do occur. Long-term, the real answer to alleviating the occurrence of long on-board delays is for the airlines, airports and various government agencies to keep working together to ease congestion both in the air and on the ground. We look forward to continuing to work with the Department and applaud the Inspector General’s efforts on this very important issue.”
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