WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today at a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) hearing on U.S. airline customer service got officials representing four major airlines to commit to a major customer service reform. United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines agreed to shorten their contracts of carriage with passengers, which list the services airline passengers are entitled to, from lengthy, legal jargon into simplified language. Norton asked whether each airline would be willing to condense its customer services into a one-page document to be made available with the purchase of a ticket to all passengers. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines committed to the goal of a one-page document, while United Airlines and American Airlines committed to shortening and making more readable their consumer services.
“The airlines came to today’s hearing perhaps thinking they were just facing Members of Congress, when really they were looking at part of their customer base,” Norton said. “Although I do not frequently fly because my district is the nation’s capital itself, almost all other Members of Congress are frequent fliers who conduct weekly monitoring of the airline industry. Currently, airline passengers do not even know what customer service rights they are entitled to when they purchase a ticket, because that information is buried on the airlines’ websites or in documents that are tens of thousands of words long. Today’s hearing is just the beginning of much-needed congressional oversight, at least for this Member. I will be monitoring the airlines to see if they have in fact condensed and simplified their customer service information.”
Norton, a senior Member of T&I and the Subcommittee on Aviation, requested the hearing after the violent removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight last month. Norton said she was grateful to T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) for promptly holding the hearing, allowing Congress to conduct “what is clearly much-needed oversight.” Norton decided on asking for a one-page consumer service document instead of a passenger bill of rights, which has never gotten through Congress. Her questions put the burden not on Congress, but on the airlines, to respond to recent unacceptable incidents involving airline passengers, including the United incident, an American Airlines flight attendant confronting a mother and her child over a stroller, and others that have occurred.