Paul  Weyrich

The Jet Blue CEO, in addition to accepting responsibility and issuing five days of apologies, has now come out with a bill of rights. Passengers if delayed so many hours are entitled to compensation. After so much time sitting on the runway the flight will be cancelled and passengers permitted to get off, etc. Jet Blue was absolutely right to do so. Some Wall Street observers complained that Jet Blue got on the map as a low-fare airline with good service. The bill of rights may cost the Airline money and thus the cost would be passed on to the consumer. But if Jet Blue and other airlines do not begin to regulate themselves they are asking for government regulation. In fact, the larger airlines are also considering a bill of rights. And the Air Transport Association, the lobby for most airlines, says it is working on a similar proposal.

But government regulation? Excuse me. That is how we got where we are now from thirty years ago. Fewer people could afford to fly then. Thanks to Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy (D-MA), among others, airlines were deregulated. That caused established airlines to offer bargain fares in response to bargain-basement airlines which started up actually to be competitive. In one sense, any objective observation would yield the conclusion that deregulation worked. Millions more who never had a chance to fly now do so. Southwest Airlines proved an airline could offer low fares and earn a profit. Jet Blue was on its way to profitability as well until this spate of bad publicity, with passengers saying on network television news programs that they never will fly that airline again. Yet Jet Blue's quick response shows the reason why it ought to be given a second chance.

Last week I wish I had had a bill of rights. I arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at 5:30 AM to fly to Atlanta as part of my work as a Commissioner on the Surface Transportation Study and Revenue Commission. I understand I must obtain special consideration because I am in a wheelchair and I hear that many people hide things in wheelchairs these days. After one inspection I was taken to a special area. There I was told that the Airline had mandated that I be inspected a second time. Believe me, that second time saw me treated as a criminal. Fine, of course I got through it despite being patted down over every inch of my body, having to remove certain items of clothing and having my wheelchair almost dismembered. If it were true that it was the Airline that mandated a second inspection for me that airline would have been US Airways. I'd like a bill of rights that I be treated decently, even though the inspections are authorized by the Federal Government.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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