Nevada senator introduces airline regulation bills |

Nevada senator introduces airline regulation bills

Susan Wood

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., must be on the same plane.

In the same week the world’s largest business federation issued a stern warning that an air transport crisis hurts the American economy, the Nevada Democrat introduced two bills that take direct aim at the airline industry’s downfalls.

The Airline Competition Preservation Act would give the U.S. Department of Transportation more authority to oversee mergers between airlines. The bill was designed to protect consumers from fare increases and flight reductions as a result of these mergers.

Delta Air Lines, the nation’s third-largest carrier, and Continental Airlines began talks of a merger in which Continental would buy Delta, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Both carriers fly out of Reno/Tahoe International Airport.

“One need only look at what happened when American Airlines purchased Reno Air. Northern Nevada lost a total of 17 flights and now residents and visitors to the Reno and Lake Tahoe area are paying higher prices for fewer available flights,” Reid stated.

The other bill, the Air Travelers’ Fair Treatment Act, would require that airlines give passengers accurate and timely explanations for flight delays or cancellations. It would also allow passengers to leave an aircraft that has remained on the tarmac for more than an hour.

Passengers across the nation have been forced to spend an exorbitant amount of time waiting for takeoffs on planes without an opportunity to stretch. Some have prompted cases of “air rage.”

The proposed legislation would also ask the transportation department to set a standard for in-flight medical care. Currently, each airline has its own policy.

“As someone who travels back and forth to Nevada on a regular basis, I’ve experienced the frustration of delays, diversions and cancellations firsthand,” the senator said.

Aviation infrastructure reforms are critical, cited the national chamber, which represents more than three million businesses.

The number of U.S. airline passengers increased 27 percent in the last five years to more than 655 million. Estimates have the number climbing to 1 billion by the end of the decade.

“If we fail to speed critical improvements to air transportation now, we are jeopardizing our long-term economic health,” chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Donohue said.

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