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American Airlines tries to pre-empt Passengers’ Bill of Rights

Consumer interest in the proposed Passengers’ Bill of Rights must be gaining momentum, because American Airlines just blinked. The company is publicly making policy changes, in an obvious attempt to avoid regulation.

The Global Traveller caught wind of this last night, and details are now more readily available:

American Airlines Inc. says it won’t hold passengers on grounded aircraft more than four hours, a policy born from a December debacle in which thousands of passengers spent hours in Austin and elsewhere waiting for storms to pass inside crowded parked planes.
In addition to the four-hour policy, American is making changes at its systems operations control center in Fort Worth to better handle diversions and make sure officials are aware when passengers’ wait times are building up.

The airline is creating a position to oversee diversions and help schedule flights to get passengers back to their connecting hubs.

It is developing automation tools to warn managers when passengers have been on the ground a long time.

The carrier said it also was “reviewing all procedures related to customer handling and make appropriate changes as needed.”
4,600 customers on 67 planes sat more than three hours Dec. 29, a good portion of whom were kept on board for more than four hours.

American is sending apologies and vouchers of up to $500 to passengers who were subjected to waits of three hours or more on the ground.

Four hours in a parked plane is still more than the three hours that the draft passenger bill of rights calls for, but it’s better than nine…

Interestingly, too, the airline is trying to buy off the angry passengers by throwing them $500 in vouchers, six weeks after the debacle.

Something tells me that Kate Hanni and the other “stranded passengers” won’t be mollified by a promise and a voucher. They shouldn’t be. It’s good that the airline is acknowledging that there are problems with the way it does business, but more needs to be done.