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Public Statements

Letter to the Honorable Raymond LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Buffalo, NY

Reps. Lee and Higgins and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand Join With Flight 3407 Families to Call On Department of Transportation to Fully Enforce Aviation Safety Reforms

Lawmakers Press for Implementation of Airline Ticketing Requirements As Signed Into Law

Western New York Congressmen Chris Lee (NY-26) and Brian Higgins (NY-27), and Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand joined with the Flight 3407 family members today to publicly call upon the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement ticketing requirements included in the comprehensive aviation safety reforms signed into law earlier this year.

The reforms passed in August as a result of the February 12, 2009 crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence Center included a requirement for vendors selling tickets for air transportation to disclose the name of the air carrier providing transportation for each segment of a flight. These long-overdue reforms built upon past law by specifically citing carrier information "shall be provided on the first display of the Web site following a search of a requested itinerary in a format that is easily visible to a viewer." In the case of the Flight 3407 tragedy, Continental Flight 3407 was operated by Colgan Air, a regional carrier who's pilot training standards are subpar compared with major air carriers. Regional carriers such as Colgan Air currently operate approximately half of all scheduled domestic flights in the United States. Schumer was the author of the legislation in the Senate.

"Our families deserve to know who exactly is operating their airplane," Congressman Lee said. "It may say one thing on the side of the aircraft, but the pilots may be trained and paid by someone else. This summer's new law makes it clear that such information must be disclosed immediately after you click, 'search flights.' I hope the DOT will ensure this law is fully enforced and I urge the industry to make certain it is complying with it."

"We learned some valuable lessons after Flight 3407 and fought with the families to include provisions in the law that allows flyers to be safer and better informed," said Congressman Higgins. "Now, with the law in place, we are holding companies accountable and calling for full compliance and enforcement of the rule requiring clear and complete disclosure of which air carrier is flying your plane."

"The law is crystal clear, and travel websites that are not yet providing full disclosure to customers are ignoring Congress and the law of the land," said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, original author of the law requiring airlines to disclose regional carriers. "The Department of Transportation should leave no stone unturned to ensure the flying public is provided with all the information about the flights they are going to take, and there should be serious repercussions if that information is not provided as intended by Congress."

"When booking a flight, everyone has the right to know what company they will be flying with," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a cosponsor of the Regional Carrier Discloser Act. "It's critical to have transparency in our airline system, especially during this holiday season. I urge the Administration to strengthen their enforcement of these rules."

"We continue our efforts to promote the implementation of, and compliance with, the law," said John Kausner of Clarence, NY, who lost his 24 year old daughter Elly in the crash of Flight 3407. "We appreciate the support from Congressman Lee and Congressman Higgins and our New York delegation. We are going to continue to press the FAA and the Department of Transportation, and the airline industry and travel websites to do the right thing by this law."

Full text of the letter:

December 13, 2010
The Honorable Raymond LaHood
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

We write to bring to your attention our concerns that new federal laws requiring clear identification of regional airlines operating flights under the auspices of mainline carriers are not being followed or enforced.

Today, regional airlines account for more than half of all scheduled domestic flights in the United States, yet too often, travelers are under the impression that their regional flight is being operated by the mainline carrier that is advertised on the ticket and the aircraft.

To address this growing problem, Congress recently passed and the President signed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act of 2010. This comprehensive aviation safety package included a provision requiring vendors selling tickets for air transportation to disclose the name of the air carrier operating each segment of a flight. A 1999 regulation requires disclosure of code-share agreements (14 CFR 257), and the new law builds upon this regulation by requiring that carrier information "shall be provided on the first display of the Web site following a search of a requested itinerary in a format that is easily visible to a viewer."

Research indicates that this requirement is not being followed across the aviation and travel industry in the manner Congress intended. Some websites use codes or abbreviations instead of identifying the flight operator, while others completely omit any mention of a regional carrier operating a flight. We respectfully ask you to investigate further to ensure that the law passed by Congress and signed by the President is being followed in both letter and spirit.

The crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 last year and its 50 victims highlight the need for transparency. Flight 3407 passengers purchased a ticket for a Continental Airlines flight believing logically that Continental would be operating the flight. We all know, of course, that in fact Colgan Air was contracted to operate the Dash-8 aircraft from Newark to Buffalo. Every part of this flight seemed like a Continental Airlines flight from the ticket they received at the counter to the lettering painted on the aircraft.

Especially after the Flight 3407 tragedy, Americans deserve to know who or what is operating the aircraft they are boarding. On this issue, simple and straightforward transparency is what consumers are asking for when they purchase a ticket and board a plane, and it is what Congress passed into law.

Thank you for your efforts and the efforts of the Department to enforce these new disclosure laws and to identify practices that violate their letter and spirit.

Sincerely,

Christopher J. Lee
Member of Congress

Brian Higgins
Member of Congress

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator


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