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Actions Needed to Improve Airline Customer Service and Minimize Long, On-Board Delays

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The Inspector General testified on September 27, 2007, before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security. Earlier this year, after expressing serious concerns about the airlines' treatment of passengers during extended ground delays, Secretary Peters requested that we examine the specific incidents involving American Airlines and JetBlue Airways, during which passengers were stranded on board aircraft for extended periods of time, and the Air Transport Association's member-airlines' contingency plans for dealing with long, on-board delays. She also requested that we highlight industry best practices that can help to mitigate these situations and provide recommendations on what actions should be taken to prevent a recurrence of such events. Based on the results of our review, we identified four key points on actions that would help to improve airline customer service and minimize long, on-board delays: (1) the airlines should specify in detail their policies and plans to minimize long, on-board delays and off-load passengers within certain periods of time and adhere to such policies; (2) airports' operators should become more involved in contingency planning for extraordinary flight disruptions; (3) there are best practices and ongoing initiatives that, if properly executed, should help to mitigate long, on-board delays in the immediate term; and (4) DOT, FAA, airlines, and airports should complete actions immediately on outstanding recommendations-some dating back to 2001-to improve airline customer service and minimize long, on-board delays.