U.S. Requires National Air Transportation Policy

Business Travel Coalition (BTC) today, in the aftermath of National Transportation Safety Board hearings examining the Colgan Air crash, transmitted a letter to Congress signed by sixty-five corporate travel buyers, labor organizations, travel management companies and industry organizations representing millions of travelers.The letter urges hearings in the larger context of formulation of a national air transportation policy that appropriately articulates public policy expectations regarding optimizing safety and minimizing cost in the U.S. aviation system. Chairpersons and Ranking Members of the relevant aviation, homeland security and appropriations committees in the House and Senate received the signatory letter.The U.S. deregulated the airline industry in 1978 but in the aftermath of the intense Congressional debates about deregulation itself, has never had a thoughtful public-policy debate about what ought to be the priorities of national policy with respect to air transportation. As a consequence, the U.S. does not benefit from a coherent aviation policy. Following the tragic crash at Buffalo, many were taken aback by reports that itemized significant differences in pilot compensation, experience, training and fatiguing commutes between some regional and major airlines. These revelations have left many in both the public and Congress concerned about the regional airline business model and the role of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The quickly eroding confidence in the efficacy of the regional model, the financial instability of the airline industry and numerous intractable problems in other segments of the industry underscore the need for a holistic review, an informed public-policy debate and the development of a national air transportation policy. It should not even be required to state that no matter the area of aviation - crew training & experience - aircraft maintenance - air traffic control - travelers should accept nothing less than a single and high regulatory standard, and a FAA willing to do its enforcement job.

According to BTC, at the root of many of the industry’s problems, and a major reason there is no national air transportation policy, is that the overall travel and tourism industry rarely acts like a real industry. Unlike many industries, travel and tourism is a collection of independent-minded suppliers of inputs to the travel experience such as hotels, airlines, labor, rental cars and airport authorities, among many others. The industry is an assemblage of interests toiling away on issues within their individual silos that correctly looks to outsiders, including governments, like it is highly fragmented and seemingly incapable of agreeing on and prioritizing its own problems, let alone solving them. The industry needs to turn away from these constricting silos and toward inclusive coalitions organized around issues of strategic importance to the entire industry.

BTC believes there is immense opportunity to tear down these silos and find common ground in identifying solutions and initiatives vis-à-vis the travel industry’s most pressing problems. To this end, BTC is convening the travel industry’s first BarCamp on July 9 and 10 with an unprecedented and diverse assemblage of the best-of-the-best from corporate travel management, airlines, government, hotels, technology providers, travel management companies, airports, associations, media, academia, labor, analysts and consultancies.

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