The Airline Passenger Experience: What it Is and What It Can Be
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Mr. Andrew Von Ah, Director, Physical Infrastructure, U.S. Government Accountability Office Written Testimony
Mr. William J. McGee, Aviation Consultant, Consumer Reports Written Testimony
Mr. Lee Page, Senior Associate Advocacy Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America Written Testimony
Mr. Joe Leader, Chief Executive Officer, Airline Passenger Experience Association Written Testimony
Mr. Matt Klein, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Spirit Airlines Written Testimony
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):
Air transportation has truly revolutionized the world, giving us access and exposure to many areas, people, cultures, and resources that were in many cases practically inaccessible before. Air transportation has allowed for the delivery of life saving medical care, the reduction of poverty, the introduction of technology and innovation, and other developments in areas that otherwise may not have experienced those benefits.
For passengers, the cumulative experience, as I often hear from my constituents, is that air travel does need to be improved. And as passenger levels continue to increase, this will become even more challenging. Here in the United States, we expect passenger volume to grow from 840 million people in 2017 to 1.28 billion in 2038.
The passenger experience doesn’t begin when you board the plane – it begins well before that. It involves purchasing the tickets, getting to and parking at the airport, checking your luggage, going through security, finding your gate, getting seated on the plane, and then reversing the entire process once the flight lands. Especially when traveling with children, as I frequently do, it can be a challenging experience – and it’s a challenge for those involved in working to improve the passenger experience.
Technology can help do that. At New Orleans Airport, for example, passengers may check their bags in the parking lot, which is incredibly helpful. There are more ways that policies and technologies can improve the passenger experience, and we need to identify them.
As we continue to consider the passenger experience in the U.S., we need to keep in mind that the number of major commercial carriers has been reduced from eight down to four, and approximately half of passenger complaints relate to international carriers and travel.
I also want to note that in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, we included over 40 provisions addressing consumer issues and the passenger experience, everything from seat size to strollers, evacuation standards to involuntary bumping, and oxygen masks to protecting pets on planes – as well as a dozen provisions addressing the concerns of passengers with disabilities. DOT and FAA are in the process of implementing these provisions, and this subcommittee should ensure the law is being implemented properly while we examine what more may need to be done.
Finally, coronavirus is on the minds of many. Our subcommittee needs to focus in a bipartisan manner on the impacts that outbreaks have on air travel and how we can ensure that people stay as safe as possible.