WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) discussed how to best improve airline industry consumer satisfaction at a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing entitled Questions, Answers, and Perspectives on the Current State of Airline Travel on Thursday. The hearing was held in response to an April 9 incident when a passenger was forcibly removed from a United airlines flight.
Much of Inhofe’s dialogue was with Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president of legislative and regulatory policy at Airlines for America.
“There level of outrage is unpresented…but what you’ve done in 30 days is pretty amazing,” Inhofe said. “We don’t always have solutions here in government. I don’t recall any time that we’ve been able to work as fast as [the industry] in correcting a problem.”
While much of the hearing focused on new rules and regulations on airline industry, Inhofe emphasized the need for voluntary solutions and considering potential unintended consequences such rules may cause.
“A lot of this rulemaking is well intended but they end up tying our hands and costing consumers more,” Pinkerton said in response to Inhofe asking if new regulations addressing this incident would create more problems than they would solve, “A one-size-fits all rulemaking approach doesn’t work for this industry…airlines recognize that we need to step up on customer service and we’re willing to do that voluntarily.”
Inhofe responded by urging his fellow lawmakers to put a “price tag” on any new regulation and consider how these new regulations would affect consumers.
“The more financially stable we are, the more freedom we have to do our business,” said Pinkerton. “We’re going to be able to lower fares. We’re going to be able to add seats. We’re going to be able to pay our employees more and add more jobs.”
Other hearing witnesses included Ginger Evans, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, Scott Kirby, president of United Airlines and Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants.