SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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PROBLEMS OF PASSENGER INTERFERENCE WITH FLIGHT CREWS AND A REVIEW OF H.R. 3064, THE CARRY-ON BAGGAGE REDUCTION ACT OF 1997
PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.
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TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JUNE 11, 1998
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
FRANK RIGGS, California
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JACK METCALF, Washington
JO ANN EMERSON, Missouri
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
CHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi
KAY GRANGER, Texas
JON D. FOX, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
VITO FOSSELLA, New York
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
JAY W. JOHNSON, Wisconsin
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
Subcommittee on Aviation
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee, Chairman
ROY BLUNT, Missouri Vice Chairman
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
JACK METCALF, Washington
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
CHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi
KAY GRANGER, Texas
JON D. FOX, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
VITO FOSSELLA, New York
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCGLENN POSHARD, Illinois
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
PAT DANNER, Missouri
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
Friend, Patricia A., International President, Association of Flight Attendants
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Gardner, Guy S., Associate Administrator of Regulations and Certification, Federal Aviation Administration
Knaffl, Carol, Flight Attendant
Longmuir, Shelley A., Vice President, Government Affairs, United Airlines
Luckey, Captain Stephen, Chairman, National Security Committee, Airline Pilots Association International
Tess, Christa, Former American Eagle Flight Attendant
Wilson, Joan, Director of In-Flight Service, Operations and Planning, Delta Airlines
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Boswell, Hon. Leonard, of Iowa
Poshard, Hon. Glenn, of Illnois
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Friend, Patricia A
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Gardner, Guy S
Longmuir, Shelley A
Luckey, Captain Stephen
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Gardner, Guy S., Associate Administrator of Regulations and Certification, Federal Aviation Administration, responses to questions from Rep. Oberstar
Friend, Patricia A., International President, Association of Flight Attendants:
Position on Crewmember Assault, statement
Position on Carry-On Baggage, statement
Wilson, Joan, Director of In-Flight Service, Operations and Planning, Delta Airlines, letter to Jane Garvey, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, from Malcolm B. Armstrong, Vice President, Corporate Safety and Compliance, Delta Airlines, concerning carry-on baggage
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ADDITIONS TO THE RECORD
Lord-Jones, Kathy, National Safety Coordinator, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, statement
Warren, Robert P., Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Air Transport Association of America, statement
Copy of H.R. 3064
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, William L. Scheri, General Vice President, statement
Luggage and Leather Goods Manufacturers of America, Inc., Anne DeCicco, statement
Legend Airlines, T. Allan McArtor, President and CEO, letter, June 12, 1998
Federal Aviation Administration, Advisory Circular:
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Interference with Crewmembers in the Performance of their Duties
Transcript of Flight Attendant Report, Cynthia Day, Flight 1821, Detroit to Mexico City, December 13, 1997
Newspaper article, Fur is Flying Over Incident on Airplane, Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1996
Individual letters for record
PROBLEMS OF PASSENGER INTERFERENCE WITH FLIGHT CREWS AND A REVIEW OF H.R. 3064, THE CARRY-ON BAGGAGE REDUCTION ACT OF 1997
THURSDAY, JUNE 11, 1998
U.S. House of Representatives,
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Subcommittee on Aviation,
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m., in Room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John J. Duncan, Jr. (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. DUNCAN. We'll go ahead and call the subcommittee to order at this time. First of all, let me say good morning and welcome to everyone who has come for today's hearing.
The subcommittee will focus today on two primary issues of importance to everyone who flies in this Nation. One is the seemingly increasing number of incidents relating to unruly and disruptive passengers, and their interference with crew members, particularly with flight attendants. And, two, we will look at airline policies relating to carry-on baggage, as well as legislation, H.R. 3064, which has been introduced by my good friend, the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mr. Lipinski. H.R. 3064 would essentially limit carry-on baggage to one item per passenger. So we look forward to reviewing these issues today.
I believe, and I feel confident that every member of this subcommittee believes, that it is important that the traveling public and crew members have a safe environment, a non-hostile environment when on-board an aircraft. We have witnesses with us today, actual crew members and flight attendants, who will explain some very unfortunate, even horrendous, examples of passenger misconduct that they have experienced themselves while flying. While there are no industry-wide statistics with respect to crew interference issues, one of the largest U.S. carriers has provided the subcommittee with information that leads us to believe that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of these cases. This information reveals that the number of incidents where passengers interfere with the duty of cabin attendants or flight crew members increased from 296 in 1994 to 921 in 1997. And the number of incidents for this one particular carrier, in the first 3 months of this year alone, reached 258, of which 63 involved physical actions.
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This is very disturbing to me and I know to many others. And I am certain that it is disturbing as wellI know it is disturbing and of great concern to crew members, flight attendants, and other passengers on these flights as well. Hopefully, today, we can learn more about the causes of these disruptive situations, and exactly how they are being dealt with by the airline industry, and we will see whether we need to do more in this regard.
Many of us also, as to the second matter, many of us who have traveled understand the concerns with respect to carry-on baggage. I commend many of the airlines, most of the airlines in this Nation who have implemented their own carry-on baggage policies. Many of these policies limit carry-on baggage to two carry-on items per passenger. However, some passengers seem to be taking advantage of that and carrying on two very large items and many, many passengers are being delayed, both in getting on and off of aircraft, now as other passengers struggle with items really far too large for overhead baggage carriers. Also, people, at times, are being hit in the head or in the shoulder by people who are unable to get these large bags off, or which have shifted during flight even in spite, of course, the routine warnings that are given.
So we need to look very closely into this situation as well. This should be a very interesting and informative hearing, and we look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
And I now yield to the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I particularly thank you for holding this hearing today, and I'm very happy that in response to my request, we're going to hear about my legislation, H.R. 3064, the Carry-on Baggage Reduction Act.
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As a Member of Congress, I fly at least two times a week when Congress is in session. Because I do fly so often, I have seen firsthand the increase in both size and number of passengers' carry-on baggage. More and more Americans are flying each day, and passengers are arriving at the gate with more and more carry-on luggage. My favorite passenger is the person who comes on with a suitcase under his left arm and his right arm, and a bag in his right hand and another bag in his left hand. And that's the perfect passenger as far as I'm concerned today. And, unfortunately, there's far too many of them coming on planes.
Although passengers view carry-on baggage as a convenience, it actually creates a tremendous amount of inconvenience. It is not uncommon for aircraft to be delayed for 10 to 20 minutes because passengers are struggling to find a place to stow their carry-on items. As a result, airlines must begin boarding earlier and wait longer for passengers to deplane, which adds to airport delays.
More importantly, excessive carry-on baggage can create serious safety concerns on crowded passenger aircraft. As we will no doubt hear today, it is estimated that more than 4,500 people, both passengers and flight crews, are injured each year as objects fall from the overhead bin. In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board has stated that carry-on baggage has slowed emergency evacuations in the past by blocking aisles and causing confusion among passengers.
Because I see the problem of excess carry-on baggage almost every week, twice a week, I introduced H.R. 3064, the Carry-on Baggage Reduction Act. This legislation directs the Federal Aviation Administrator to issue regulations to limit the number of carry-on items to one per person. The only exception will be for adults traveling with infants under two who do not have a seat of their own. In that case, the adult will be allowed to carry a bag for that child, as well as his or her own carry-on item.
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I know that we will hear from a number of witnesses here today who agree with me that something needs to be done to limit carry-on baggage but who do not agree that it should be limited to one bag per passenger. I am interested in hearing your thoughts and arguments. Nevertheless, I do believe that carry-on items should be limited to one bag per personone bag per passenger, that is. One bag per passenger is straightforward, easy to understand, and will create an industry-wide standard that will apply to all passengers of all airlines. I travel twice a week with one bag and I do not believe it is an unreasonable standard.
Excess carry-on baggage also adds to the problem of unruly passengers, which is also the focus of our hearing today. Passengers who have made it to the gate with excess carry-on luggage do not like to be told that they must now check one or more of their bags and they often direct their anger toward their flight crew.
Passenger interference with flight crews is a serious problem and it unfortunately appears to be on the rise. Once an airplane has left the ground, the flight crew does not have the emergency response options that are often taken for granted on the ground, such as 911. An airplane in flight is a community in and of itself. We must make sure that everything is being done to ensure it is a safe, peaceful community.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for responding to my request for a hearing on H.R. 3064. I look forward to hearing from our knowledgeable witnesses today about the problems of both excess carry-on baggage and unruly passengers.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Lipinski. Mr. Boswell?
Mr. BOSWELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I, too, appreciate that you're having this hearing today. It's something that's a subject matter that's near and dear to all of us. And I have a prepared statement I'd like to put into the record. Many of the things my ranking member, Mr. Lipinski, has said. And I'd like to just kind of make some comments from that.
And that is basically that wewell, first off, I want to say that we're going to hear a lot of criticism and I'm going to be a critic too, but at the same time I want to give you some applause for the hard work and some of the crews that we've met on these twice a week flights that many of us make, I just think that many, many people are doing an outstanding job. And I have to say that in fairness. And I also have some concern for their safety and welfare as we see how people seem to be more tempted to rage and anger when things don't go just to suit them. And I find myself thinkingand probably others do toobecause of life experiences I've had or whatever, if a situation turns sour, what can I do that would be helpful, not a hindrance. And I find myself thinking about that from time to time because if a flight attendant would come under attack or something, I'm not the kind of person that could just stand there and watch that. I couldn't do that. So anyway, so there are some concerns.
And I watch some of the stuff that people carry on board and some of the airlines got that box there but you have time to check it, it may be a periodic check, and I don't know whether all of them do or not. It's pretty clear. It either fits in the box or it doesn't. And I think that Mr. Lipinski makes some good comments there. I'd still like to be able to take that small bag and a briefcase. But I don't know. I guess if I can't take the briefcase, I can't take it. If it turns out to be that way, or whatever. But in the winter time, some of the baggage that comes down that aisle is just amazing. And if you happen to be seated in a aisle seat when they come down, you just about get your head knocked off sometimes with people walking down through there with all these big bags. So it's something we need to address. Obviously, air travel is going to get more and more and more and we shouldn't be surprised about that.
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So, again, I would applaud the actions taken by the airlines to date, but I think there is going to have to be some continued input from the airlines, the FAA, training on how to deal with conflict resolution and those types of things. And I hope that we would be of mind to be of assistance.
So, again, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your holding this hearing. I won't burden you with all these comments. I think that Mr. Lipinski made many of them very well. But let me remind you that at 30,000 feet, you don't have the same options you do when you're on the ground. You can't pull over and raise the hood and see what's going on, as we've said in the past. And you can't pull to the side of the road and say, ''Get out and walk.'' So it's a different situation and it needs our attention.
And, again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for having this hearing.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Boswell.
And we're always honored to have the ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Oberstar, who many of us have referred to for many years as ''Mr. Aviation,'' and so Mr. Oberstar, do you have any comments at this time?
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your good words and thank you especially for your splendid judicious leadership of this committee in carrying on the grand tradition and for your commitment to the needs of aviation. I also want to thank Mr. Lipinski for his persistence and leadership on these two issues: violence among the passengers and on limiting carry-on baggage.
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Safety has always been a primary consideration and concern of this subcommittee through all of its previous chairmanships, including my own chairmanship. But safety is not just the air frame, the engines, fire blocking materials, it also has to extend to the passengers, to those in the cabin. Unruly passengers and excessive carry-on baggage pose another kind of threat to the safety and security of travelers, as does another matter and that is safety of children, unaccompanied minorsa matter that I'll be raising later on.
We've seen disruptive passenger incidents rise from 296 in 1994 to 921 last year, including those that result in, or are accompanied by, physical actions, more than doubling of such incidents in the last year. That's just not acceptable, certainly not on board aircraft, certainly not when you're five, six, seven miles in the air. In some cases, you might say, that these kinds of actions are the aviation equivalent of ''beltway violence,'' aggressive driving conduct. There's no need for it. It's simply not tolerable. The carriers have undertaken vigorous actions, as we'll hear today. The flight attendants have been vigorous in their pursuit of remedial actions. The Airline Pilots' Association first raised this issue 2 or 3 years ago. The FAA and law enforcement all are paying careful attention, but they have to work more diligently and vigorously to stop these kinds of incidents. Passengers have to know that when they get on board aircraft they're not going to be subjected to violence, even violence that might threaten the safety and the safe passage of the aircraft.
The related issue, that of excessive carry-on baggage in some cases reminds me of traveling in a Third World country. I've lived in Haiti 3 1/2 years and I remember getting on board the ''Tappa,'' where chickens, pigs, birds of all sorts, oversized bags were shoved in, along with the passengers, chicken feathers flapping in the air. Well, you don't quite have that but I've seen people try to carry 18- and 20-inch TV's, on board an aircraft and puzzled that they couldn't get it in the overhead compartment, and disturbed that flight attendants come and say, ''Ma'am,'' or ''Sir, that doesn't fit under the seat in front of you. It has to get out of there.'' They don't understand why.
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Many a time I've stopped to say, ''You know, if this plane ever had an accident and we had to get out, the person sitting there on the window seat is going to stumble over your bag and fall flat and they'd die.'' It's not right. You can't do that sort of thing. And then there are those who look at the loads of bags that are stuffed into the overheads and say, ''My God, if this thing ever has a bump, what if that stuff comes down on my head?'' People worry about those things. And they shouldn't have to.
Passengers should not be adjunct baggage handlers for the airlines and if we're going to limitas Mr. Lipinski suggeststhe number and size of carry-on bags, then the airlines have a commensurate responsibility to have enough baggage handlers and to handle the baggage speedily enough so that people will not be tempted to carry the bags on so they can get off the plane fast, get on the plane quickly, and get about their business. We're going to explore those issues today in the course of this hearing.
It shouldn't be an airline responsibility only, though. Because you will have different carriers, as we do now, with different rules. And passengers shop around, where there is competition on pair city routes, for the carrier that is the most lenient and will give them the greatest latitude in managing their luggage. That's not right. The FAA ought to take hold of the situation and adopt a uniform rule so that the issue of carry-on bags does not become a commercial or marketing opportunity for any one carrier or lenient airline shopping by passengers. With some 4,500 passengers and 3,700 flight attendants a year injured by carry-on baggage, no wonder the Flight Attendants' Union is deeply concerned about this issue and has repeatedly brought it to the attention of this committee, and why we are responding with this hearing.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Safety has to be an all-encompassing issue. Safety has to be a condition, a mind-set, a culture, both within the FAA and within the carriers. And safety has to start in the corporate boardroom and it has to start in this boardroom with the Congress, which has the primary oversight responsibility of safety, as conducted by the airlines and overseen by the FAA and the Department of Transportation.
I look forward to the testimony this morning. Thank you, again, Mr. Chairman, for your diligence in pursuing these safety issues and you, Mr. Lipinski, for your continued vigilance.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Oberstar. Mrs. Johnson?
Ms. JOHNSON OF TEXAS. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. My remarks will be very brief. Thank you for setting this hearing. My experience on planes is that we have attendants who work very hard and don't deserve to have a great deal of irritation by passengers, and I'm eager to hear their opinions and see what we can do to address it.
I thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. Mr. Pease?
Mr. PEASE. Mr. Chairman, I regret that I will be leaving shortly to go to two markups, but I want to thank the chairman and the panel for being with us today. As one who didn't travel much before this job, I've learned a lot in the last year and a half about airline travel and one of the things that has puzzled me is why in the interest of passenger convenience, by allowing folks to bring on multiple bags, we really have inconvenienced, I think, a lot of other passengers and the staff who have to tell people things they don't like to hear. And it seems to me that it is appropriate for us to address this subject to try and assist the airlines and those passengers that want to do the right thing; and, in fact, help, perhaps, get some flights off on schedule more often merely because they won't be slowed down by folks who try to bring so many things on board.
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So I applaud this effort. I applaud the airlines that are trying to work in this area. And I hope that we can come to some satisfactory resolution.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. Mr. DeFazio?
Mr. DEFAZIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to the testimony. I appreciate your bringing this issue up today. I'm, unfortunately, closing in on about 2 million miles since I came to Congress, mostly on one of our major airlines, United, and I have personally seen unruly customersI saw one who I thought was going to start a fist-fight on a flight to Chicago over something inconsequentialsomeone putting something near his bag in the overhead bin or something like thatI never even quite understood what it was about. But you could just sense the situation about to spin out of control. The flight attendant handled it very well. I've seen other similar instances.
So I think it's appropriate that we address that issue. I also think it's appropriate that we address and standardize the carry-on baggage issue. However, I also want to state that being a frequent business traveler, who has to fly transcontinental, that most people who vitally need to and want to carry on bags, business travelers, are willing to do it in a fashion that complies with some standards, but limiting to one bag or no bags of carry-on for people who are flying 200,000 or 300,000 or more miles a year conducting business at either end, until the airlines can substantially improve their baggage handling, we're going to have to accommodate those people. So the rule needs to be reasonable. I don't believe one bag is reasonable, but two bags of a proper size, most business travelers can accommodate that and I think will willingly accommodate that.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. Mr. Fox?
Mr. FOX. I'll pass.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Ms. Millender-McDonald?
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, for bringing this very important issue to a hearing. As a frequent traveler, I have seen disruptive passengers in their notion of trying to bring on too many bags. I have seen how flight attendants and others have tried to accommodate them and yet it has not been met with any satisfaction. It is important that we have a type of policy that will protect those who are trying to service us as we're in the air. And I look forward to the testimony.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. Mr. Watts?
Mr. WATTS. I have no opening statement, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. We're very pleased that we have a very distinguished panel, in fact two panels, here today. And we appreciate all of the witnesses being here. The first panel is Mr. Guy Gardner, who is associate administrator of regulations and certifications for the Federal Aviation Administration. And Mr. Gardner has been here with us many times before, although I understand, Mr. Gardner, that you're going to be leaving in a couple of months, and we certainly wish you the very best. And I understand you're going to be speaking in a lot of schools throughout the Nation to tell about your experiences as an astronaut and other things. And I certainly admire and respect you for doing that. You've been very helpful to this subcommittee and we appreciate your good efforts in working with us.
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And we have Ms. Shelley A. Longmuir, who is the vice president for government affairs of United Airlines. And Ms. Joan Wilson, who is director of In-Flight Service, Operations and Planning for Delta Airlines. And certainly we're pleased to have both of you with us as well.
And just before we start the testimony, though, I'd like to see ifMs. Danner has just come in. Do you have any opening statements you wish to make, Ms. Danner?
Ms. DANNER. Not necessarily, Mr. Chairman, but as virtually everyone in this room knows, my husband flew for TWA his entire career and he has told me some incredible stories of happenings on the airline with regard to the issue that we're discussing today. So I look forward to hearing your testimony.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statements of Mr. Poshard and Mr. Boswell follow:]
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. And as most people who watch this subcommittee regularly know, we proceed in the order the witnesses are listed on the call of hearing and that means, Mr. Gardner, you will go first.
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TESTIMONY OF GUY S. GARDNER, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR OF REGULATIONS AND CERTIFICATION, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION; SHELLEY A. LONGMUIR, VICE PRESIDENT, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, UNITED AIRLINES; AND JOAN WILSON, DIRECTOR OF IN-FLIGHT SERVICE, OPERATIONS AND PLANNING, DELTA AIRLINES
Mr. GARDNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to thank you, and Mr. Lipinski, and certainly Mr. Oberstar, and the rest of the members of this committee for your interest in these topics and your support in helping us bring them to a better situation.
I'd also like to thank you for inviting the other members of this panel and the next panel so that we can get the frontline input into these issues, as well as that from the regulatory side.
As you know, a couple of months ago, Vice President Gore, Secretary Slater, and Administrator Garvey announced a new Federal Aviation Administration safety initiative which we call: ''Safer SkiesA Focused Agenda.'' As part of that initiative, we have one of the major groups in the area of cabin safety. That cabin safety part is being conducted with the leadership of a joint group, which includes the FAA, members of the Flight Attendants Union, the Pilot Union, as well as the Airline Operators as well. This group is called ''Partners in Cabin Safety,'' or affectionately referred to as ''PICS,'' P-I-C-S.
This group is focusing in four areas, the two areas that you mentioned today, that today's hearing is about, that of unruly passengers and carry-on baggage. It is also looking at passenger seat belt use and child restraints.
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There's no question that the issue of carry-on items has significant implications and it's one that we in the FAA take very seriously. The improper acceptance or stowage of carry-on items in aircraft can result in very unsafe cabin conditions. As you have mentioned, and other members have mentioned, carry-on bag-related injuries are among the most commonly sustained in commercial aviation and they do appear to be increasing. There are obviously also passenger convenience and airline efficiency issues associated with carry-on bags. However, neither passenger convenience nor corporate consumer policies override the absolute necessity that items carried into aircraft must be securely stowed. The rules that we currently have in the Federal aviation regulations that address this I think are performance-based rules. As the White House Commission recommended that we make more of our rules performance-based, I think this is an example where we have done a good job in the rules themselves. The rules basically are that everything must be stowed properly in the aircraft before the aircraft can close its doors and push back.
In addition, in our rules, the regulations require that each carrier submit to the FAA for approval a carry-on baggage program that must consider a range of issues and some of these are the definitions of what constitutes a carry-on bag, the manner in which the carrier intends to prevent the boarding of baggage that cannot be properly stowed, the manner in which the carrier intends to prevent the boarding of baggage that exceeds the allowable stowage space on board, and the manner in which the carrier intends to ensure that all baggage brought on board of the aircraft is properly secured and stowed.
However, these regulations and procedures, obviously, have not stemmed the increase in baggage-related injuries on board. Last December, in response to these complaints and concerns, the FAA published a notice in the Federal Register for a revised advisory circular which gives the airlines information on how they should have their carry-on bag programs. It was open for comment, and we're getting ready to issue the final advisory circular, hopefully by the end of this month. Some of the additions it will do is to clarify the definitions of carry-on baggage and proper stowage, and it will make it easier for airlines to administer, for airline personnel to follow, and for FAA to enforce.
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The PICS group is very active in this and they are working initially in the area of information and they have developed carry-on baggage pamphlets to put out. We issued a pamphlet last Fall and we're going to issue another one towards the end of this year. PICS is also active in the area of unruly passengers and the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security recommended that the Justice Department and U.S. Attorneys be more active in prosecuting criminal cases involving disruptive passengers. The Department of Transportation is committed and is working with the Justice Department to support this effort.
Last November, we launched a pilot program starting in a couple of the western region airports to help law enforcement officials respond more consistently to allegations of disruptive actions. For the past year and a half, this program has grown to seven cities and we hope to include another city the end of this month. We work in coordination, not only with the PICS group, but with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement agencies, as well, to not only address this issue in terms of the civil enforcement options that the FAA has, but as well as criminal enforcement that the criminal authorities can bring to bear to stem this problem.
In conclusion, I want to assure the members of this subcommittee that the FAA takes these issues very seriously and is committed to working with the airline industry, flight crew organizations, the law enforcement community, and the Justice Department to improve cabin safety. Through the Administrator's Safer Skies agenda, the PICS program, and pilot programs, such as the one in place to help curb interference with flight crews, we will continue to work with the people in these other organizations and the public to make the skies safer skies.
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Thank you, sir.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Lipinski, and other members of the committee. On behalf of our 90,000 employee owners, United appreciates the opportunity to discuss the two areas of concern the committee has identified today: the problem of disruptive passenger conduct and carry-on baggage policy.
Mr. Chairman, we are proud of the fact that our aviation system is the safest in the world and that United safely transports nearly one-quarter million people, what our Chairman Jerry Greenwald has described as a ''small city every day of the year.'' Getting people to their destinations safely is our number one job. At the same time, we know that air travel can have its hassles and inconveniences. And we are striving to see that our customers have the most enjoyable travel experience possible. Neither they, nor employees who form the bedrock of our company, should face the problems created by unruly passengers or for that matter, the less dramatic problems caused by excessive cabin baggage.
Let me address first the disruptive passenger issue. Our policy on unruly and disruptive behavior, from smoking in a lavatory, to physically assaulting crew members, is quite simple and straightforward. It is simply zero tolerance. At 30,000 feet, as Congressmen Lipinski and Boswell have referenced, safety dictates that there can be no other policy. There is no other alternative means for assistance at that location. Disruptive behavior in-flight demands the time and attention of our crews, professionals who have critical safety responsibilities that they must perform. This behavior also affects their ability to offer quality service to others on the aircraft. By monopolizing crew member time and attention, other customers are inconvenienced. Equally important, it can create real problems for our employees who have on occasion borne the brunt of disruptive, aggressive behavior and even physical assault. Our employees have the right to be safe at work, and United will not tolerate the physical abuse of any of its employees.
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For this reason, we have led a number of initiatives within the aviation industry to provide our employees with help and recourse if they are victimized. This includes legal support from our in-house attorneys, time off to appear in court, professional counseling and, of course, the emotional and practical support of their managers. We are also working with the Air Transport Association and a number of Federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, to elevate the priority of aviation crime, especially to emphasize vigorous prosecution of passengers who interfere with crew members. The ATA is working with the Justice Department to complete a prosecution manual with recommendations that will set forth a range of potential violations, the facts that need to be presented for criminal prosecution, and model charging instructions.
Mr. Chairman, thankfully, unruly or disruptive passengers form only a tiny percentage of our customers. For all of last year, we tracked 450 in-flight incidents, from the most minor to the most serious, out of nearly a quarter of a million passengers we fly every single day. Nonetheless, Mr. Chairman, working with the ATA, the Federal agencies, and this Congress, we will continue to make every effort to see that abusive passengers, who are a threat to passengers and our employees, receive appropriate punishment.
Mr. Chairman, allow me to turn to the other matter of concern before the committee today: the problem of excess carry-on baggage. This hearing is especially timely on this issue as United has just last month inaugurated a new carry-on bag policy affecting all North American flights. To put the matter in perspective, as you know, the FAA in 1988 issued a rule requiring each airline to adopt a carry-on baggage policy for FAA approval. But the agency set no uniform limits on the number or size of carry-on bags. Over the last decade, more people are flying, more items are being hauled on board, and new types of bags, from roller boards to oversize garment bags are being stuffed into overhead bins. All of this creates real inconvenience, delays operations, and causes safety risks. Taking time to find overhead bin space slows the boarding process, delays flights, jeopardizes connections, and adds to a general level of passenger frustration. It also affects our crews' ability to provide both quality service and accomplish their critically important safety responsibilities. They will tell you how tough it is to perform those duties while they must also deal with excess baggage falling from overhead bins or protruding from beneath seats, conducting lengthy searches for the last morsel of bag space.
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What can United Airlines, the industry, and the Government do to address these concerns? First, to avoid passenger confusion, we need a clear and consistent FAA regulatory standard for carry-on bags for the entire industry. This should not be a competitive issue among or between different carriers. Passengers should know well in advance the maximum number, size, and dimensions for carry-on bags, no matter what airline they choose to fly.
Second, we at the airlines need to effectively communicate our policies to passengers. And to that end, United recently initiated a new carry-on policy which allows passengers to board with two reasonably sized pieces of luggage, measuring up to 45 linear inches on our aircraftthe length, plus the width, plus the height. This does not include child safety seats, small purses, coats and hats, or assisted devices for disabled passengers. And we are educating the public on this new policy, including showing a new in-flight video on all North American flights starting in July, placing articles in our in-flight magazine, ''Hemisphere,'' placing signs and placards at the gate, using ticket stuffers, and sending notices to our frequent flyers.
Mr. Chairman, let me close by saying that we appreciate this committee's interest in the concerns of our passengers, our employees, and our industry in addressing the issues of disruptive passengers and carry-on bag policies. With your support, we're sure we can continue to move toward a safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable travel experience.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
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Ms. WILSON. Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee, on behalf of our 72,000 employees, and particularly our 18,000 dedicated flight attendant professionals, Delta appreciates this opportunity to appear before this subcommittee and address carry-on baggage issues and crew interference issues. I have submitted a more detailed statement and will summarize my remarks.
Mr. Chairman, on April 15th of this year, Delta implemented a very strict carry-on baggage policy, notable in the minimal number of exceptions. This policy was developed out of our concern for the safety and convenience of our frontline employees, as well as our customers. This is nothing new. When Delta has identified a critical safety enhancement, we unilaterally move to implement it. For example, we were the first U.S. carrier to ban smoking on all flights. We were the first U.S. carrier to announce installation of defibrillators on all our aircraft and we were the first carrier to receive a supplemental type certificate to install cargo-based smoke detection and fire suppression systems. All of these steps were taken to enhance safety and strengthen the health and well-being of our customers and crew.
Carry-on baggage is another one of these safety issues. Any one who doubts this has not been on a Friday afternoon flight between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. Failure to properly control carry-on luggage can lead to delays and inconvenience on the ground, but even more importantly, it creates delays in emergency aircraft evacuations.
Carry-on baggage is also a service issue. The subject of carry-on baggage is becoming an increasingly difficult problem for airlines to administer, but more importantly, it's becoming more difficult for customers to understand. Delta remains concerned that an industry-wide perspective focused on passenger safety and the efficiency of the Nation's air transportation system has not yet been realized.
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At Delta, we believe the recent focus on carry-on baggage has been brought on by three major factors. First, carry-on baggage is a misnomer. Today's luggage is anything but carry-on. Today's baggage has wheels and handles designed as a unit which will make it easy to roll large and heavy objects on to the airplane. It has nothing to do with being carried.
Second, the United States aviation industry is experiencing a period of unprecedented high-load factors. Delta alone carried 103 million passengers last year, more than any other carrier in history. We now see bags which passengers could not physically carry through the airport a few years ago.
Third, inconsistency in bag policy among all airlines has sent mixed messages to our customers. Last year, the Air Transport Association convened a group of representatives of member airlines to develop a proposed industry standard for carry-on baggage. Unfortunately, the group did not reach consensus on a proposed industry standard. Given the failure of the ATA Task Force, Delta decided we could not wait for the industry and we moved ahead unilaterally to improve and simplify Delta's current carry-on baggage policy. Although our new policy has clearly helped many of Delta's concerns, we have asked FAA to establish an industry rule on the subject.
We commend Congressman Lipinski for introducing legislation to create an industry standard for carry-on baggage. While we wholeheartedly support the intent to direct the FAA to create one industry standard, we urge Congressman Lipinski and the subcommittee to allow two bags, not one, for the following reasons: We are concerned that a strict one bag only limit will create undue hardships for our customers and conflict between our customers and flight attendants. We have found that passengers want access to, and we can safely accommodate, two bags inside the cabin.
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Let me now discuss crew interference issues. While the difficulties of carry-on bags cause passenger confusion and stress, resulting in heated exchanges and words between passengers and our flight attendants, research indicates there are several factors involved in crew interference of which the carry-on baggage problem is just one.
I would like to emphatically state that Delta Airlines will not tolerate either physical or verbal abuse against our crew members. A Delta flight attendant who is physically or verbally assaulted by a passenger receives the full support of the company in pursuing prosecution of that passenger. We simply will not tolerate abusive physical or verbal behavior from our public on the airplanes or towards Delta people.
The highest form of service a flight attendant can provide is to ensure a safe and comfortable environment during the travel experience. When one passenger's behavior becomes so extreme, it interferes with the flight attendant's ability to perform their duties, the safety of all passengers and the crew is impacted.
Delta now has two separate training programs geared toward dealing with what we term ''the abusive passenger,'' and I have described these programs in detail in my written statement. We're not stopping with these steps. We're also committed to lessening the stress on today's traveler as much as possible. We cannot control the weather, nor will we ever fly an airplane that is not 100 percent safe. Inevitably, there will be times when our operation does not go like clockwork, and we don't like it any more than the passengers do. But we do expect our passengers to show restraint when times get tough, and we are committed to getting their travel back on track as soon as possible.
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Flight attendants carry the message of customer service for our passengers, and it is very sad when the messenger gets abused. Our frontline flight attendants don't deserve it, and Delta won't tolerate it.
We commend FAA for the actions they have taken, and will continue to work with them to expand these efforts. Again, we appreciate the opportunity to present our views to the subcommittee.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much all of you for what has been most interesting and helpful information. Ms. Longmuir and Ms. Wilson, do you think the number of unruly passenger incidents are increasing, and, if so, is that increase a dramatic increase? Why would it be increasing, do you think, is it based on more people flying or what's the situation?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Mr. Chairman, on behalf of United, with respect to statistical growth, as ATA represented in their written testimony, while the number may appear to be steady at this point, we are concerned as we become more diligent with our tracking, picking up, frankly, more instances. We find it unacceptable to have any incident of unruly behavior in the cabin. As we have stated, and most members of the panel agree, that such behavior is a distraction from their safety responsibilities. I think the unprecedented high load factors do create a difficulty. I think this also connects in with the other issue before the subcommittee this morning regarding excess carry-on baggageleading to yet another form of frustration for the flyer. In our own research, we have discovered that oftentimes passengers board the plane with their frustration at a peak so that the slightest incident that occurs on board actually sets them off and creates a bad dynamic within the cabin.
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Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Wilson?
Ms. WILSON. Mr. Chairman, I agree. More people are traveling so the airplanes are more crowded. The people are also becoming much more comfortable in that environment and that alsoand there is some anonymity in the airplane environment and they seem to be becoming less respectful of a flight attendant's, crew member's responsibilities.
It's hard to say how dramatically it's increasing because we, too, have been very diligent in soliciting input from the flight attendants. We have a computer system where they an write up any incident. We also have a way that they can call a manager in-flight 24 hours a day to let them know, directly from the airplane, that they have an incident going on. So we are tracking large numbers, whether it is increasing or whether we just weren't aware of it 3 years ago
Mr. DUNCAN. Are you getting more complaints from flight attendants about this?
Ms. WILSON. Yes.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Gardner, what is the record of the FAA in regard to prosecuting passengers who become unruly or who smoke in the lavatories and other types of violations?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. In my written testimony for the record, I quote some numbers. Let me dig those out for you here. In 1997, we had 284 civil penalty cases involving passenger interference with crew members that were initiated by our legal office. Let me point out wherever those cases primarily come from our reports from the flight attendants through the airline to the FAA. They are required to report those incidents within 5 days to the FAA. In that time, the current maximum civil penalty is up to $1,100 per violation. During that year, 1997, we assessed over $73,000 in penalties. One case resulting in a $16,000-plus civil penalty against a passenger for repeated violations, as well as criminal action where the defendant pleaded guilty. But 284 cases in 1997, which is up from the previous years, which I don't have those numbers with me right now.
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Mr. DUNCAN. What are most of thosewhat are the types of those cases? What are most of those fines levied for?
Mr. GARDNER. Actually, the data I have, the best data I have comes from Delta, Delta Airlines' database, so we can either have our other panel member give you that information but one of the high-ranking numbers is a result ofthe specific type I don't havebut what we think is involved is alcohol. Intoxication is certainly a very high incident in these cases.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, moving to another topic of the luggage, the carry-on items. Do you think the FAA should come up with an industry-wide standard or guideline in that regard?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, I've wrestled with that issue, working with, actually, the airlines since I've been in this job on the appropriate role of the FAA in its safety regulatory role in working with this juxtapositionwhatever that big word isagainst a CEO of an airline's responsibility of not only safety but also passenger convenience and on-time performance and those other issues that are important to passengers that are not a FAA regulatory responsibility.
The difficulty comes in the wide variety in the types of aircraft and the types of the way they outfit the airplanes and the operations they are used for. There's one small airline, for instance, who operates first-class only. Obviously, if you have fewer seats in the same airplane, each person can carry more baggage per person. Problems with going from a flight on a 747 with huge cargo compartments to your final leg being on a small commuter airline, which has almost zero room for carry-on baggage. Therefore, the rule we have in place today allows for the airlines to accommodate that variability, but the requirement is that the airline have a program, and our new advisory circulars I mentioned gives more detail in that program to work with the airlines to make sure that they define what proper stowage is a little better and define what their limits of carry-on baggage are for the different phases of that operator's thing.
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I think from a simplicity viewpoint, Mr. Lipinski's bill is a great idea. It certainly would make things simple. As a safety regulator, it would certainly help us but I think it addresses the passenger convenience as well as the airline on-time performance convenience, and which may be of benefit but I don't take that as part of a FAA responsibility. Safety is our job.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, I think you've made an important point there. If we come up with some sort of rule, it needs to be simple and understandable to everyone. And I applaud the airlines, I applaud United and Delta for going ahead on their own. On the other hand, say 45 inches, and that's the height, and the length, and the breadth added together, I'm sure thatI can see where that would create a lot of confusion as people would wonder whether their bag or they might feel their bags fit under that guideline. I don't know. It's not an easy, simple issue as it may appear on the surface.
Have you heard anything from the U.S. luggage industry in regard to this?
Mr. GARDNER. We have metyes, sir, we have met with representatives from the U.S. luggage industry as well, trying to encourage them to design the luggage that better fits in stowage compartments. One of the issues is when the industry started adding wheels and the carry-on handles for the bags, that added to the dimension of the bag in order to keep the content size the same, which you end up with bigger bags. We have had discussions with them on this. Again, we're trying to make this a very cooperative effort to find the best solutions for the industry, as well as for the passenger and then the appropriate role of the regulatory agency.
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I might add that all of these programs, training is a very key ingredient to this. The flight attendants, or whoever is responsible for screening the bags coming on an airplane, certainly need to have the appropriate training. And that is part of the program that is required. And we in the FAA are working with them as part of this Partners in Cabin Safety program to develop the training. And passenger education is another big part of that as well.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Well, thank you very much. Mr. Lipinski? Mr. Lipinski has asked that I go to Mr. DeFazio first.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, well, I'll go in two parts here. One part will relate to the issue of disruptive passengers or potential violence or actual violence on planes. And, Ms. Wilson, you saidboth airlines that are here today have a zero tolerance policy, as I understand it. I just listened, being a legislator, to the subtlety of your wordsand it may have been inadvertent on your partbut you said that employees can report into your computerized database such instances. Are they required by the airline to report? So do you know that the numbers you have are actual numbers?
Ms. WILSON. We have an on-board leader program. We have an on-board leader on every flight and they are required to submit reports whenever there's an incident on board the aircraft.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay, so they are required. And, Ms. Longmuir, in the case of United?
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LONGMUIR. Yes, Congressman DeFazio, we have a similar program on board.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. So both the airlines have these databases. Do you convey this information to the FAA in any form or have they asked you for it?
Ms. WILSON. Clearly, Delta has.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Yes, and we also supply the information to the FAA.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. Mr. Gardner, how does the FAA process or handle or evaluate this information?
Mr. GARDNER. Well, there are specific forms that are used to convey that information to us. And then we take that and go investigate the case. If appropriate, we bring in the criminal authorities as well in looking at these cases. And we investigate them in the normal way we would investigate cases.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. Now do all airlines follow this practice?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. DEFAZIO. They do. So all airlines require their employees to report incidences, the incidences are all compiled and reported to the FAA?
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Mr. GARDNER. Now, I can't say that all of them require all of their employees, I'm not knowledgeable of that information.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. I think that would be a good idea.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. Do we consider thisyou would consider this potentially, and I was just reading ahead to some of the testimony, particularly Captain Luckey's testimony where he talks about some pretty extreme instances, but apparently, unfortunately, not uniqueand we'll hear about that laterbut he's talking about the possibility of a pilot or copilot being disabled in some of these instances of extreme violence, for example when a number of passengers have been involved in tussles with drunk, unruly, or otherwise disruptive passengers. Is this a pretty serious problemI know the incidences are still not that high, but it's much higher than the incidents of hijacking and we put in place a lot of things to deal with the potential for hijacking. Are you looking at proactive measures here
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. DEFAZIO. and better enforcement? Because I also read in his testimony, a lot of times everybody is reluctant to prosecute here, including the Fed's.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. Actually, if it's a case that the crew deems appropriate, and especially an unruly passenger, the pilot will call ahead and be met at the gate with the local airport police, with the local authorities. We are working with, as I mentioned, with the local authorities and the local authorities with us and the FBI, as well, because depending on where the violation occurs as to who has jurisdiction on that. In order to, obviously, contain the unruly passenger, if they're still unruly at landing, as well as to, in some cases, arrest them on the spot, and proceed with the criminal investigation which is handled by the U.S. attorneys.
Mr. DEFAZIO. All right. Now, just back to my previous point, he did say further in his testimony, that Dr. Post, professor of psychiatry, spoke at a conference on this issue last year, and said that there is no unified system in the industry for collecting information on these incidents. I guess from my previous questions, you're saying that you have a form andI wonder what he's referring to because you seem to be implying there is a unified way of reporting these things?
Mr. GARDNER. Well, I'm on the edge of my knowledge base as to what the actual form looks like. We are not satisfiedlet me say that right awaywith the current database, looking at the big picture of both carry-on baggage incidents as well as unruly passengers. We are working, as part of this program that I mentioned called PICS, Partners in Cabin Safety, we are working as a joint effort to develop ways to have a better database and data analysis methods to look at both of these issues.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. And to Ms. Longmuir and Ms. Wilson, now to the other issue before us, which is more common, I think, and of daily concern to many passengers, the issue of baggage and flight attendants too. You've both implemented more stringent standards, apparently recently, because I've seen the signs posted at the United counter and Delta. Do you still feel the need for an industry-wide rule and, if so, how would you address the issue? I guess the ATA failed to come to a consensus, how do you address the issue that was raised by someoneI think, perhaps, Mr. Gardnertalking about the different configurations and sizes of aircraft that someone might be flying on during a given flight? They might start out with you on a 747 or a large plane and then end up on a commuter. How would you handle that? I want to agree with two bags because I can do that very manageably and I think most business travelers can. But I'm just wondering how do we deal with this sort of transition from larger aircraft to smaller aircraft, or how do we have an industry-wide rule that you can get some consensus on?
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Ms. WILSON. Congressman, I think one of the most important things is not just what the policy is but the fact that we can communicate it and the customers understand it. You're right, one of the biggest problems we have right now is that they're allowed a laptop as an exception on one aircraft on one airline, they come to Delta and that's not an exception. And it's very difficultand they take it out on our frontline people because they are very confused. I think if you have a strict policy that people can understand and is reasonable and we communicate it as an industry, then I think that will alleviate a lot of the problems that we're experiencing right now.
Mr. DEFAZIO. But you know how hard it is for the FAA to promulgate rules, how lengthy that process is, particularly, if you have a divided industry on the issue. I don't know what the breakdown was at the ATA. Was it over people who wanted to have more than two bags or what was the breakdown?
Ms. WILSON. I can't remember the specifics. I think some airlines did want to have more than two bags.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Right.
Ms. WILSON. Because they see it as a competitive issue.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Right.
Ms. WILSON. What we're asking today is that you view it as a safety issue.
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Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay.
Ms. WILSON. It's not a competitive issue.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Right. So we're basically back to where we were on smoking, which is
Ms. WILSON. Yes, sir.
Mr. DEFAZIO. that I had many conversations with many airline executives when I offered those amendments my first years on this committee; and I heard, ''Well, we'd like to stop it but airline 'X' won't and we'll lose the smoking passengers.'' And I said, ''Well, every time people cheer on my flight when they say no smoking, I think you'll gain passengers.'' But anyway the Federal Government had to step in and I think here that's what we're hearing too. We are going to have to bite the bullet, establish a Federal standard, or reasonable Federal standard, and it just can't be exceeded no matter whatunless you're on a private aircraft or maybe charter or whatever you want to develop as an exception. But for commercial aircraft I think we're going to have to do that.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Congressman?
Mr. DEFAZIO. Yes?
Ms. LONGMUIR. If I may respond? We firmly believe that we still do need a uniform policy. We certainly applaud Congressman Lipinski for his attempts to try and do that with his proposed bill. As you may recall, our Des Moines, Iowa bag test, where we tried to lead, frankly, in establishing a one bag policy based on the price of the ticket, if you were willing to suffer a variety of restrictions in order to get the lowest fare and, to have a more relaxed standard, allowing two bags if you had paid more, recognizing the business traveler's need for a laptop, and a briefcase, and a carry-on bag. And, frankly, in the competitive environment in which we operate everyday that was simply a policy that we couldnot maintain. The best compromise we've been able to reach at this point is the new policy that you've seen at our gates, which is a hard two bag rule. But we certainly would continue to support some guidance for the industry on a uniform policy.
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Mr. DEFAZIO. Great. And the two bags, which you both supported, I support. And Congressman Lipinski and I often work together on issues of consumer safety but the difference between the two of us is he doesn't have any possibility or probability of being stranded overnight between here and Chicago and it happens to me many, many times in my transcontinental commute to work.
So Bill and I do have some differences over that issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. DeFazio. Mr. Davis?
Mr. DAVIS. Chairman, thank you very much. Ms. Longmuir, let me ask you, the number of unruly passenger cases, it has increased significantly over the last 5 years?
Ms. LONGMUIR. We would not make that observation, Congressman. We see that the ATA, numbers have reported a fairly steady, slightly growing number. But, again, as my colleague at Delta has mentioned, we are becoming increasingly aggressive in how we collect that data and also with respect to the definition of ''disruptive behavior,'' and ''physical act.'' We have a very broad definition in place from a tap on the shoulder to an outright fistfight.
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Mr. DAVIS. Yes, would everyone concur with that? A lot of this is in the reporting, you think?
Ms. LONGMUIR. I do.
Mr. DAVIS. Okay. Does the importance of on-time departures interfere with the flight attendants' ability to enforce the carry-on baggage policy?
Ms. LONGMUIR. I would say, Congressman, that it certainly distracts from the flight attendants' primary role, which is their safety responsibilities, whether it's a disruptive passenger unhappy with a seat assignment, or whether it's a flight attendant trying to provide great service in helping them find that last centimeter of bin space, it is a distraction from what their primary responsibilities on board are.
Mr. DAVIS. Ms. Wilson, do you have any, same
Ms. WILSON. I agree.
Mr. DAVIS. Okay. Mr. Gardner, has the FAA reviewed the training programs for flight attendants with respect to in-flight disturbances and do you think they're adequate?
Mr. GARDNER. I'm not personally familiar with that. I know we have that requirement that they have the training programs. As a matter of fact, we actually have some training programs down at our training facility in Oklahoma City where we bring in the flight attendant trainers and work with them in developing the training programs for the flight attendants.
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Mr. DAVIS. Well, it looks at the data, like mostat plurality, the biggest cause of this are alcohol related. Do you think that the alcohol policies are appropriate that we have at this point that are in place?
Mr. GARDNER. Would you like me to respond?
Mr. DAVIS. Let's get everybody to respond.
Mr. GARDNER. Okay.
Mr. DAVIS. You can respond and the different companies to respond.
Mr. GARDNER. Actually, I'm more interested in hearing the company response myself because we don't have FAA regulations in terms of how they serve the alcohol or the limits other than that you cannot bring on your own alcohol consumption, you can only consume alcohol that is served by the airlines.
Mr. DAVIS. Well, the data that we were looking at this morning showed that that was the leading cause, I think, were alcohol-related although there are a number of other causes as well. And I just wondered if the policies we have in place, if we've looked at those, if there's anything wrong with the policies or is it just a fact whenever you deal with alcohol, people sometimes lose touch?
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LONGMUIR. Congressman, with respect to United Airlines' experience, we do not feel comfortable that we have a completely accurate number on what percentage or number of instances of disruptive behavior are directly attributable to the consumption of alcohol. We don't have breathalyzers on board. We have no idea, frankly, how many passengers have consumed alcohol before they've gotten on board. In some instances, passengers have brought their own supply of alcohol so it's very hard for us to trace that. And with respect to the total number of alcohol-related incidences in the last year, we had approximately 20, 10 of which were very significant. And, again, in relation to the total number of passengers that travel everyday on United, it's hard for us to inconvenience the vast majority of our passengers to, frankly, deal with a small number of irresponsible passengers.
Mr. DAVIS. Okay. Ms. Wilson?
Ms. WILSON. Those are good points. I'd just like to add, I caution you not to think that this is not just an alcohol-related problem. We do have very thorough disciplines to deal with alcohol on board the airplane. And it is accountable for a large number of these but there are other reasons. And it is a bigger problem than just alcohol or reducing alcohol.
Mr. DAVIS. Well, just the data we have. Twenty-five percent, when you take a look at the U.S. carriers disruptive passengers for 1996, root causes of disruption, 25 percent alcohol intoxication, only 5 percent were food service.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That means16 percent problems with the seat assignment, 12 percent hostile, threatening, abusive passenger behavior, problems with the no smoking requirement, 10 percent; problems with carry-on luggage, 9 percent. I don't know how accurate this is as we try to accumulate data on that but the alcohol kind of jumped out at me and I just wanted to ask. But I think Ms. Longmuir, I think, has put it into appropriate perspective, 20 cases, in which 10 were serious. And how do you make policy for 20 cases. I think that puts it into perspective.
Let me ask each of you how extensive is your training programs in the area of disruptive passengers?
Ms. WILSON. For Delta, our's is very extensive. As a matter of fact, we're putting all our on-board leaders through training right now. And there's a 4-hour session that deals with giving our flight attendants better skills to deal with abusive passengers, teaching them how to diffuse the situation before it gets any worse. And we also have a course in our recurrent training, which every single flight attendant is required to go through this year, that also deals with the abusive passenger and defusing those situations.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Congressman, United Airlines has a similar program. Unfortunately, it is a fact of flying now for our professional flight crew that they do have to be trained in conflict resolution; and, unfortunately, those skills are becoming utilized on a more frequent basis, which, obviously, is a great concern to all of us in the industry and I know to this committee as well.
Mr. DAVIS. Do you think that the smoking ban has caused an increase in disruptive behavior or maybe initially more than now, are people getting used to that?
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Ms. LONGMUIR. On behalf of United, I would have to echo Congressman DeFazio's observation, we've gotten very positive responses from our passengers with a smoke-free environment.
Ms. WILSON. I wouldn't speculate, no.
Mr. DAVIS. Well, let me just thank all of you. United has a huge hub at Dulles and I fly that most of the time and we've had a couple of situations that my observations just as a passenger have been very good in terms of the way it has been handled.
Thank you very much.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Thank you, sir.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Davis. Ms. Millender-McDonald?
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. And, again, thank you for bringing this to our attention. It has been a problem that we have been associated with flying back and forth from our districts back to Washington. I am very pleased to know that you all have zero tolerance policies but then, as Mr. Davis has pointed out, I, too, am reading the data that we have here and in 1997, there were 921 accidents or incidents, of which 207 persons were involved in physical actions. Whether that is correct or not, this is absolutely appalling to all of us to know the abuse that is taken by the crew membersby the crew members on behalf of these disruptive people.
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My question, Mr. Gardner, is this, I think you mentioned that you had about 200-plus incidents of 1997, 1998, and yet, if I'm not mistaken, you said that FAA's primary interest is that of safety, would you not say that it's also and should be involved in the type of travelers that we're getting on these airlines, and you should be looking into the disruptiveness of these travelers?
Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Millender-McDonald, let me point out that that's just the statistics from one major carrier, American.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. You are kidding.
Mr. DUNCAN. That's just one airline.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. It is absolutely appalling. And I have been on aircrafts when some of this disruptiveness has happened and it has been, the air crew have really handled it very well but no one should be subjected to this type of thing. And, again, as Mr. Davis pointed out, 25 percent of this is blamed on alcohol intoxication. So I will get to that. But, Mr. Gardner, again, I don't know whether I understood you correctly to say that FAA's primary concern, and it should be, safety but also should you not have some sense of policy that will speak to the travelers and their abusive behavior?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, ma'am. And I am sorry I wasn't clear. I certainly include the safety of, particularly our safety people, the flight attendants, on board those aircraft. Their safety is part of that safety concern
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Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Okay.
Mr. GARDNER. and the safety of the other passengers traveling on these airplanes are included in that priority of our's, of safety.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Okay. So it's not another rubric of safety then. I just wanted to make sure I understood you correctly because I would like to think that FAA should be also interested in the safety of those who are servicing us in the airways, as well as the safety of the aircraft itself.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, ma'am, most definitely so and that's why we are working with the Flight Attendants' Union and others in this issue.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Okay. In terms of the alcohol intoxication, Ms. Longmuir and Ms. Wilson, it appears to me like there is unlimited service in terms of alcohol on these aircrafts and yet in our bars, we do ask the bartenders to try to curtail those who are using or asking for alcoholic beverages. Is there not a policy that you should curtail some of that or do you just give folks unlimited liquor in the air?
Ms. WILSON. No, we don't. We have a policy at Delta where you may not bring your own liquor on board and a flight attendant may not serve a passenger who appears to be intoxicated, similar to the policies they have in restaurants and bars.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Okay, because I have been on aircrafts where there has been a pouring of wine, and wine, and wine, and wine. It doesn't seem like it stops. And I was concerned about that because this passenger has to disembark and then they have to go to their car and drive to someplace, which they might stop by a bar before they get there. It's really concerning to me as to the alcohol content that is being served.
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The training programs that you have, it's 4-hours for how long, 6 months, a year, your training in terms of your crew members in training to try to assist in these abusive behavior travelers?
Ms. WILSON. At Delta, we have about 5,000 on-board leaders. They began training in March and they will be completed probably by the end of this summer. But we're also doing it in the recurrent training, which every flight attendant must complete once a year.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. So that's about 3 months, 4 months?
Ms. WILSON. Recurrent training?
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. The actual training to ensure that they have some tools to use with reference to these travelers, initial training, let's put it this way?
Ms. WILSON. Okay. We have an initial training for brand new flight attendants
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Right.
Mr. WILSON. which the training dealing with abusive passengers is a module in that training. We then have it for on-board leaders and then we also have it for flight attendants who have been flying for 10 years or 20 years this year in recurrent training.
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Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Ongoing training, initial training, how long is the training program or those training programs? They are all in one?
Ms. WILSON. For initial flight attendants, we usually have expanded modules, so it would probably be 4 to 6 hours. And for the leaders it's 4 hours. In recurrent training, it's an abbreviated, probably about 1 to 2 hours.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Going over a period of how many months, 3 months?
Ms. WILSON. Twelve months.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. A year. Is therewell, let me ask this question. With your, Ms. Longmuir, with your 45-inch carry-on luggage, how do you enforce that?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Essentially, Congresswoman, all of our personnel have been trained to determine the 45 linear inches. That's our responsibility. Our first preference, frankly, is to remove this from the cabin and to remove this even from the gate agents' responsibility and to try and address this before folks go through the security because we're trying to expedite, obviously, our boarding process, as well as on-time departures.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. And it's a kind of a look and tell. You can just kind of see that it's 45 inches?
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Ms. LONGMUIR. At this point it is. We do have development of technology underway, led by our vice president for safety and security, Captain Ed Soliday, as part of the screening process that does ultimately have a gauge system in it. A laser can be shot at the particular carry-on baggage item which quite quickly, and thankfully, mathematically makes those computations. This device is in the testing phase right now.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. What are we doing about the weight of this luggage? It seems like some of the luggage is extremely heavy and with the flight attendants having to put it above their heads, it just seems like it's awkward and could be very dangerous. Do we have a certain weight limit?
Ms. LONGMUIR. There is a weight limit. Unfortunately, it's really an eyeball weight limit, based on how much a passenger is struggling. It is the passenger's responsibility to stow that baggage. Frequently, you'll see flight attendants going above and beyond the call of their duty in trying to assist a passenger. But, again, your point of it being a safety issue is certainly well taken and appreciated by everyone at our airline.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Well, I hope and I certainly want to be part of ensuring that we have a uniform policy whereby we ensure the safety of those persons who are helping us in the air have that type of safety and comfort, and not be disturbed by these abusive travelers. I would like to say that when I was aboard a flight once and the flight attendants kept telling folks to sit down because we were going through turbulent weather, people ignored that. And it was not until I wrote this particular airlineand I will not say who it wasand said maybe the pilots should say something. Now the pilot does say, ''Will you please take your seats.'' And they tend to listen to the pilots. So it's a shame that they have to do this for their own safety but I do want to say that when United says, ''Safety is our number one priority,'' we, as passengers, should also feel that it is our number one priority and act accordingly.
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Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Ms. McDonald. And Ms. Danner?
Ms. DANNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Gardner, the word you were searching for is ''juxtaposition.''
Mr. GARDNER. Thank you, ma'am.
Ms. DANNER. I also serve on Surface Transportation and we heard testimony recently with regard to ''road-rage,'' and now I think we're hearing it with regard to ''air-rage.''
How many of you had a chance to see yesterday's Wall Street Journal? Two of you did. Did you, Mr. Gardner?
Ms. DANNER. All three of you saw that. I found that an extremely interesting and informative article and for my colleagues who did not have an opportunity to read that, I would recommend it to them because that gets into a subject we haven't even touched here today.
But to follow-up on some of the things that we have talked about today, are airline personnel empowered to say to an unruly passenger that, ''You will be met at the gate by an FAA official, by the airport police and you will be detained while we discuss your behavior,'' et cetera, so that they know that they are going to be detained at the time? Because most airline passengers are very eager to move on once they get to their destination. Is an airline flight attendant empowered to say that?
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Ms. WILSON. At Delta, yes.
Ms. LONGMUIR. And, similarly, Congresswoman.
Mr. GARDNER. Hopefully everywhere, yes, ma'am.
Ms. DANNER. That would be very good. I was quite interested in hearing your comment, Ms. Longmuir, about the laser measurement because I have flown on airlines where there is a device that one must fit their luggage into and if it doesn't fit into that device, they can't carry it on board. United, I don't know that they have such a device, is that correct?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Those sizer boxes
Ms. DANNER. Sizer boxes? I didn't know the nomenclature.
Ms. LONGMUIR. they were in use for a period of time but, frankly, we feel that the 45 linear inch measurement actually gives passengers more latitude in what they would like to bring on. For example, a duffle bag might not fit into a sizer box, however, it would comply with the 45 linear inch requirement. So being in the service industry, we're trying to be as responsive to passengers balancing against that, you know, our concerns over safety.
Ms. DANNER. Very good. I know that several of my colleagues have referred to the information the chairman made available to us which shows, Mr. Chairman, that we've all done our homework and read this. In looking at the figures, comparing 1994, physical actions would have been involved in one-ninth of the incidents. And if I multiply by the 3 months that we've already experienced in 1998, it's going to be one-fourth. So it's gone from one-ninth, with physical actions, to one-fourth of physical actions in this one particular unnamed airline which is significant, and that is, I assume the same airline, although I don't know that to be the case, that indicates that problems with carry-on luggage comprised 9 percent of the problems whereas the alcohol is 25 percent.
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Following up on Congresswoman McDonald's comments, it is a little perplexing inasmuch as, of course, one does not supposedly have access to their own liquor while they're on board and are servedand supposedly no longer served when there is any problem, and yet, if that is the case, how then would there be 25 percent of the incidents related to intoxication? Obviously, some of these people do become intoxicated. It's been my understanding that liquor at 30,000 feet is quite different than liquor at zero feet, sea level. How, then, if liquor is not served beyond a certain measure would one assume that there could be 25 percent of actions?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Well, for the very point that you've just raised, Congresswoman, alcohol does have a different impact physiologically at 30,000 feet versus at ground level. There are instances, clearly, where passengers have had several drinks in an airport bar, not had another drink, gotten on to an airplane, not had an additional drink, and, frankly, begin to register the effects of what they've imbibed on airport premises or before they came to the airport. So it's not always necessarily directly attributable to what they have been served on board.
Ms. DANNER. Very interesting. I really have no further questions at this time. I will give you the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Ms. Danner. Mr. Bass?
Mr. BASS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this hearing, which in some respects, to most people, perhaps the most significant issue of the late 20th century but for most of us here and a growing segment of the population of this country, very up-front and personal, both the issue of passenger interference with flight crews and also the carry-on issue.
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And I apologize for missing the opening statements but I've had a chance to review them, and I'd just like to give you the benefit of my observations, having flown now for many years, on the issue of carry-on baggage. The reason why people carry bags on to airplanes was listed in one of the testimonies here, the fact that baggage, the check lines for baggage are very long or you have to pay tips outside to get them checked, getting your bags back takes a long time and sometimes the specter exists that bags won't arrive on time. So there's a general inclinationand I'm one of these typesto try to carry, drag as much as you possibly can on to the airplane because you're going to get in and out quicker and there's going to be more assurance that you're going to have your bags at your destination.
The issue of carry-on, though, the concept of a carry-on bag should be that it needs to contain what you need during the course of a flight and the area above your seat should not be another cargo hold on the airplane. And it seems to me that the way to solve the problem so that your customers are satisfied and at the same time it's safer, is to provide a mechanism whereby passengers are, frankly, encouraged to bring as much carry-on baggage as they want right to the end of the jetway, but not any further than that. Then you establish a mechanism whereby all those bags are put into the baggage compartment underneath. And I know there was a comment in here about the flight people having to walk up steep stairs but that could be corrected. If it becomes the norm that you come downremember every carry-on bag that makes it to the end of the jetway has been x-rayed, you don't have the security problems, necessarily, that you have with a bag that goes down below or maybe there would be fewer of them, and you load these bags at the time of embarkation and then you unload them before the passengers get off the plane. There is always a period of about 5 minutes before anybody can leave anyway.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I know there's problems lining everything up in the jetway and so forth but there also is a connection between carry-on baggage and passenger anger because nowI've noticed the newest thing now is that the first people on the plane, that are sitting in the back, dump their bags in the front so that nobody in front has any space at all and the flight attendants have no authority or anyway to control or regulate any of this process. They're not even there.
It seems to me if I were in charge from a standpoint of an airline executive, I would want to satisfy the customer and at the same time get those bagsfrankly, the customer doesn't want the bag overhead either. They don't wantit's dangerous. They're heavy. You've got to try to stuff them in. There's a certain amount of anxiety not knowing whether there's going to be any space left on the plane for the bag. Why not set up a system whereby these bags are automatically taken away at the gate before the person gets on the plane and they're returned before the person gets off the plane?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Congressman, the reference that you made to personnel climbing up and down steep exterior stairs was from United's testimony. We certainly appreciate your point, it's a creative idea. However, to essentially have bags checked at the gate or the jetway would merely shift the problem from either the customer service agents who are then the line of interference or our flight attendants or flight crew who are the line of interference to then our ground personnel who now have a massive number of bags to load in a very short period of time, all manually, without the assistance of our tug and cart system, without being able to, frankly, load the bags in a weighted fashion for purposes of flight.
I think we certainly do recognize the concerns and anxieties that travelers do have about relinquishing their bags. And that's part of our responsibility as an airline to educate them about our attempts to be better and better in tracking and assuring that they are able to pick up their bag on time at their point of arrival. And we have certainly been allocating a lot of capital project dollars to particular airports where we have, frankly, detected some problems in that area, such as San Francisco for one.
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Mr. BASS. Any other comments? Well, let me just point out that what I described you really can't control anyway. Because if I want to carry a trunk down to the gate, I can do it, as long as it fits through security and then you guys have got to take care of it whether you like it or not. And that's what the customers want so why not make it work to satisfy the customer because clearly with the way somebody said baggage technology and the ability of bags to be rolled down and so forth, that's where the market is going. You should see these check-in lines. They're like ski lines for the ski lifts. And it's a frightening sight for most passengers and there's a tremendous incentive for these people to bringto stay away from that stuff. And if I were you, I'd be trying to set up a system where you take the people out of the front office and put them down at the end of the jetway then, if that's the problem. And you know how to handle weight and balance for airplanes. You could take care of that problem.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Bass. I want to welcome the newest member of the subcommittee, Mr. Berry from Arkansas. And Mr. Berry, do you have any questions at this time or comments?
Mr. BERRY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be very brief. I'm an old country boy that was taught that there's two sides to every story and I only see one side represented in this witness list. And I totally agree with what my colleague just said about the way baggage is handled. I think that would be a big improvement is to improve the check-in and baggage claim process.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have to tell you that for me going through the airline check-in process is the equivalent of going to the Farm Service Agency office, where they make it as difficult as possible for no good reason. And I have wondered many times where the training school is on the airline that I fly the most to teach the check-in people and the clerks at the ticket counters to be nasty.
And I have to say that I think that that is a big part of this problem. Obviously, no one should be abused, no one has a right to abuse anyone, whether they're an employee of the airlines or whether they're a customer. But I heard no one in this testimony indicate that they understoodand as the riders on the airlines have gone up in recent years, I've noticed a marked increase in this ability of the clerks and airline employees to be abusive and unconcerned and difficult to deal with. And so I think that's a point that does need to be made and I would hope that the airlines would in some way try to address that.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Congressman, we certainly agree. We think it's understood that if an employee is ever abusive to a customer, clearly, termination or discipline up to a termination is warranted. That is something we work with everyday. And our employees are very clear that customer service, as well as safety, is a top priority.
Mr. BERRY. That is what I would expected your answer to be and I appreciate you saying that but at the same time is there a reporting system for the other side of this story? Is there some way to report to the FAA abusive airline employees?
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GARDNER. We do not track abusive employees to the passenger in the ticket counter. No, sir.
Mr. BERRY. Maybe we should have one.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Congressman Berry, certainly at United we are in the service business and the only reason I have a job or any of my colleagues have a job is because the passengers pay for us to have a living. And, certainly, what is the underlying theme in our concern about having a uniform carry-on bag policy is so that our customers have a clear expectation of what is permissible and what is not so that, frankly, by the time you do get to a customer service agent who may have had difficulty with the prior four passengers, explaining to them why they can't bring on the kitchen sink, that they still have their professional energy intact so that they can be courteous and professional to you as a passenger which is exactly what you're entitled to.
Mr. DUNCAN. I apologize but we do have a vote going on. We've just got a little bit over 5 minutes left so we will have to be in recess at this point. We'll start back in just a few minutes. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. I apologize for the delay. I had been told that there was one vote and there were three. And so that took a while longer but we're ready to proceed now. And Mr. Oberstar, you may begin.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the panel for their testimony and for enlightening my colleagues and me on the complex subjects at hand. I'd like to begin, though, Mr. Gardner, with a question that I mentioned in my opening remarks of unaccompanied minors, more appropriately a Department of Transportation issue than a FAA question. But I did ask the Department last Fall, after a number of issues arose involving a carrier in our State, Northwest Airlines, about inconsistencies and inadequacies in the unaccompanied minor program that the carrier and other carriers have voluntarily adopted and which they advertised. Passengers pay the airlines a fee to care for children who are traveling alone. This is a phenomenon that is going to increase in intensity with the changing nature of the American family. We don't need to elaborate on it here but there certainly is going to be a substantial increase in this phenomenon. And if the carriers advertise a program, then they at least have a contractual obligation to those who pay the fee for their children to be accompanied from one gate to another and to be seated appropriately on the flight, to be sure that they get to the flight.
And just recently there was an announcement that two carriers are doubling their fees from $30 to $60, which means $120 round-trip cost just forin addition to the ticket. You do not have in FAA, nor does the Department of Transportation have a standard for carriers to meet, nor an obligation that they provide such a service. But the question is whether the carriers are required to report complaints to either DOT or to FAA from those who feel that they have been inappropriately, inadequately treated. Do you know if
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. And I don't know, as you correctly stated, that is a Department issue. I will certainly go back and prod the Department on the status of that.
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Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, it would be nice if you did that. It would be, perhaps, more well-received from you than from me. They are going to be appropriately prodded because I'm very disappointed in the lack of response since I raised this matter last November, I believe. And had not action, despite several requests for action, from the Department and my patience is at an end with them on this matter.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. I'll pass that on.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Let me ask the two carriers represented here, in the television coverage in Minnesota on this subject, Northwest was reported with a number of problems, which I won't elaborate here, but the same TV crew covered other carriers, at least one of which is represented at the table, on which there were very favorable reports. So I'd like to ask what your respective practices are in how you oversee and monitor and assure that there is compliance by your personnel with the program that you advertise to parents for unaccompanied miners. Mr. Wilson?
Ms. WILSON. I agree it is one of the biggest responsibilities today is escorting unaccompanied minors. I'll take you a little bit through the process. When they come to the airport and go to the ticket agent, they process the paperwork, make sure they have it on the child, on a string around his neck or her neck to make sure that it doesn't get separated. The agent actually walks the child to the gate and doesn't leave the child until the child is turned over to the flight attendant. The flight attendant seats the child, make sure they understand the safetymake sure that if they have any questions, they're answered. At the end of the flight, the child is to wait until the flight attendant comes to them and the other passengers have deplaned. And the flight attendant then walks the child to the agent and remains with the child until the agent has done their duties with the other passengers. It is very labor intensive. It is something we strongly emphasize in our training because they are children.
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Mr. OBERSTAR. Do you set a priority for the personnel who must be diverted from some other activities, this is not a full-time activity for those personnel? Do you set up a priority level for them on this matter?
Ms. WILSON. Children are the priority.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Ms. Longmuir?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Mr. Oberstar, to my knowledge, United has a similar program where we have a very tight chain of custody, if you will, for the child to accompany them from the time that they leave the parent's side to always be with a United Airlines person and then similarly seated on board and then subsequently, at the other end of the trip, recovered by a flight attendant and then handed off to the gate agent and then subsequently to the parent on the showing of proper identification that coordinates with paperwork that the child is essentially wearing or carrying.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Has either of your carriers received complaints from parents about inappropriate treatment of their children?
Ms. WILSON. I don't know.
Mr. OBERSTAR. You don't know?
Ms. WILSON. No.
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Ms. LONGMUIR. I have no knowledge of that.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Is there a process for reporting to the Department of Transportation any such complaints within your organizations?
Ms. WILSON. I'm unaware.
Ms. LONGMUIR. I'm unclear of that. I'm happy to get you an answer.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Do you conduct this work entirely in-house or is it contracted out?
Ms. WILSON. What work?
Mr. OBERSTAR. The responsibility for the unaccompanied minor.
Ms. WILSON. Our employees handle that, our Delta employees.
Ms. LONGMUIR. And, similarly, at United Airlines.
Mr. OBERSTAR. It's handled entirely in-house?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Yes.
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Mr. OBERSTAR. There are some carriers that contract out that responsibility and parents in the news program on this subject were not aware that the responsibility had been contracted out.
I must say that, in fairness to Northwest, that on a couple of trips that I have taken in the last 2 months, I just haphazardly, by accident, noticed a gate agent with an unaccompanied minor, with tag around the neck, and taking very, paying very close attention, taking very careful care of this child and refusing other duties that were asked of that person by another personnel agent, gate agent, rather, and making sure that this child was in her care, taking that child to the gate. That is a very precious responsibility and precious cargo.
To another subject that I think is significant but has not been discussed so far is the matter of disruptive individuals. Each year the U.S. deports a rather large number of people via our commercial air service. Many are deported because of criminal backgrounds, others because they've run afoul of the immigration laws. There is significant potential for harm and disruption aboard aircraft from such people. Yet, I understand that there's been very little done by the Government to work with the carriers to provide either adequate notice or adequate protection. Immigration agents, to the best of my knowledge, do not fly along with the deportees, leaving the responsibility to the flight crew.
That raises the question of whether, Mr. Gardner, starting with you, and I want to ask the same question of the carrier representatives, whether you see a potential for a disruption for persons who are being deported to another country, in most cases against their will. And, secondly, do you think it's appropriate for the FAA to respond or should the Department develop a plan of action for this type of activity in conjunction with the Department of Justice?
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Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. I'd have to agree that certainly a deportee, against the will, would pose a higher risk of unruly behavior than a normal passenger. I know the FAA works with the INS. I'm afraid I'm not knowledgeable as to what degree and what rules we have. I'll have to provide that for the record at a later date.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I'd like you to look into it and report back to the committee and give us your response to the point that I've raised about DOT or FAA responsibilities and coordination with Justice Department and INS to ensure that there is protection against others from a potential disruptive occurrence.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
[The information follows:]
Mr. OBERSTAR. Ms. Longmuir, have you had any such incidents with deportees?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Actually we have had, Congressman Oberstar, what has become, I won't say a dominant problem but certainly one of concern where in one of the more egregious instances, United Airlines had to actually retain security guards to accompany a particularly potentially violent deportee and, not willing to place either our customers or flight crew in a potentially dangerous situation, we did go to that extra caution; but which has been a source of concern and frustration for the airline because we don't feel comfortable in having that responsibility without some additional assistance, obviously.
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Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you. Ms. Wilson?
Ms. WILSON. Not that I'm aware of but we can get an answer for you.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you. On the subject of carry-on, if I can summarize the FAA position, it is yourthe FAA considers it their responsibility to extend only to safety, that is, defining what is a carry-on bag, assuring that it issetting up regulations to assure that a bag is properly stowed, prevent baggage that might exceed the available stowage space on board the aircraft and to assure that it is secured and properly stowed. Those are the four areas of responsibility. And the FAA requires carriers to submit a plan to assure that those four standards are met?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. OBERSTAR. You don't see it as a responsibility of FAA to deal with the number of bags carried on board by an individual passenger?
Mr. GARDNER. As itagain, this is a complex issue for the FAA in sifting out the safety issues in carry-on bags because it is a mixture of safety, passenger convenience, airline turnaround time
Mr. OBERSTAR. That's right.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GARDNER. efficiency and all those things.
Mr. OBERSTAR. You describe it well, it is a mixture of those
Mr. GARDNER. What we're trying to do is sift out the safety responsibility because that is the FAA's role in doing that. I, as a frequent traveler, I kind of like the idea of knowing that I can only carry one bag or two bags on board for my passenger convenience issues and it's an issue ofand I'm guessingCongress has that responsibility as well to look at those things. So I don't mind you all addressing those. As a matter of fact, I think it's great you're addressing those issues. But, again, it's doing my role as a safety regulator and making sure I'm not overstepping those bounds.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes, and I think you described it quite well. Now, limiting by legislation or by regulation the number of carry-on bags raises some questions before I think we can get to that point. First, if the limit is one carry-on, how many additional baggage handlers do you think United, Delta, or other sister carriers would have to engage in orderI see us passengers as surrogate baggage handlers for the carriers. They're quite happy to have us carry on lots of bags. Your people don't have to handle them. But if we're going to limit it, that means if people are going to travel with three or four bags, you're going to have to have more baggage handlers. Have you thought about what that might entail?
Ms. LONGMUIR. I certainly have no ''guesstimate'' that I could even offer this committee. I can only make the observations that people carry on airplanes oftentimes what they otherwise choose not to ship. So there would be some deflection of what otherwise might go on an airplane if you would prefer to ship it elsewhere. I think also it is very labor intensive if there is deflection of bags at the jetway or at the gate with our ground personnel that then have to be pulled off the regular duty of otherwise loading the bags from the more traditional ways that they're conveyed to the belly of the plane to address large volumes of carry-on bags.
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Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, consider the magnitude of the problem. Since we began security screening at airports in 1969, some 20 billion pieces of luggage have been screened at airport security checkpoints. Now, you divide that by some number to figure out how many bags are going to be stowed or multiply two times 625 million passengers we're going to have this yearor estimated this yearon domestic, just the domestic service alone, that's a billion two. Say you can only have half of that, that's maybe 600 million additional bags that carriers are going to have handle and passengers aren't. Somewhere I think this is a jobs program.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Well, it certainly could be but I would also observe that with the amount of bags that other, either our flight crews or our ground personnel, are having to deal with and the safety problems that that causes for them with on-the-job injuries that hopefully there's a happy trade off that, frankly, makes it more than worth an airline
Mr. OBERSTAR. I expected you both to say, ''Well, our baggage handlers are so efficient, they can take can pick up the slack and they can carry this.'' But I think that that's going to be a big problem that you all need to think about if we proceed with legislation to limit the number of bags.
Ms. WILSON. Congressman, we believe that if there was a standard industry policy, not only will people check bags that they used to carry on board, people might change the way they think about what's really important to take on a trip. If they really don't want to check their luggage, maybe they'll combine, reduce, more efficiently carry what they're going to take on their trips.
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Mr. OBERSTAR. We heard something about oversized bags in earlier testimony. Do the carriers or does the FAA work with luggage manufacturers on sizing bags for carry-on to fit in the overhead compartment? I'm thinking of particularly wheeled luggage that doesn't fit perpendicular to the hull of the aircraft but has to be stowed horizontally. It takes up two-thirds of an overhead compartment in a row of seats where there are three passengers, which means that only one other person can put a bag up there. Do you have some means of working with these manufacturers and say, ''Look, you have to figure out how to manufacture these bags so that three of these things can fit up in the overhead?'' No?
Ms. WILSON. Not that I know of.
Ms. LONGMUIR. At this point, Congressman, with the United Airlines new bag policy, which began on May 15th, with the 45 linear inches, the smallest wheel-on bag actually does fit in the baggage bin
Mr. OBERSTAR. Perpendicular in the hull?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Perpendicular. And the next size up, the one which I use when I travel does not, as I've learned.
Mr. OBERSTAR. A little show and tell here.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LONGMUIR. Yes, right.
My final point is, as an adjunct of luggage, I have visited a FAA tech center on several occasions on safety and security matters and witnessed a very compelling demonstration of what happens to pressurized hair spray in a contained demonstration. Eight ounce size, hair spray, pressurized can, was heated underneath with an alcohol lamp to simulate fire on board an aircraft, inside of a standard 747 luggage carrier, aluminum luggage carrier, and when it reached the appropriate temperature, the can exploded and blew the side of the luggage container 20 feet. It is an explosive. It is extraordinarily dangerous and I've several times asked if the FAA intends to undertake a rulemaking to limit or prohibit pressurized hair spray containers. Those things can start going off like bombshells on board aircraft.
Mr. GARDNER. I'm sorry, sir. I'm not familiar with the status of where we are on that. I'll have to provide that for the record.
Mr. OBERSTAR. That's one you can jab the tech center about and you can jab your rulemakers about.
Mr. GARDNER. The tech center used to be my folks, the rulemakers now are so I'll
Mr. OBERSTAR. All right, well, whoever, but I think those arewe're talking about survivable accidents, you're going to have luggage compartments exploding because of the increasing number of hair spray containers, pressurized containers that can function like bombs, not very safe.
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Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. I know we have addressed that issue. I'm just not current where we are. That was part of the logic behind the detection and suppression rules that we passed last year, as you're aware.
[The information follows:]
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much. I appreciate the extra time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar. Dr. Cooksey?
Dr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Do we really need, as Members of Congress, to dictate the number of pieces of luggage? Anybody want to touch that?
Ms. WILSON. We think it's a good idea.
Dr. COOKSEY. Do you really? Well, I'm not always convinced that it's necessary to have another rule or another regulation that emanates from this august body that sometimes is not all-wise and all-august. I am from the town where your company started. I remember I used pipeline strobe planes when you still had crop dusters in Monroe. But I have flown Southwest, they don't seem to have a problem with luggage. They make money when no one else is making money and there does not seem to be a problem with carry-on luggage. Maybe you should look at some other incentive for people not to get on airlines with a lot of extra interior luggage. They load their planes very quickly. They do not have assigned seating and they unload them very quickly. And they keep their planes in the air and, of course, that's when you make money is when your airplane is in the air and not when it's on the ground. I'm a physician so I'm aware of the problems of flight attendants handling heavy carry-on luggage and having to put them up above in the bins.
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Now, the problem of abusive passengers. I think that's something that really needs to be addressed and it should possibly be addressed on a national level. I have seen people get on airplanes that have had too much to drink, and people that consume too much when they're onboard, and I think that's a problem. What do you think we should do about that group of people?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Dr. Cooksey, if I could respond first to your prior observation, I would echo my colleague's view from Delta that we would similarly support a uniform policy on carry-on bags, primarily as a result of our experiment in Des Moines, Iowa where we tried to do something with less than two bagsthe policy allowed one bag based on the value of the ticket that you had purchased, if it had a lot of restrictions and it was excursion fair. We supported a passenger only being permitted to carry on one bag. If you paid more for your ticket, trying to use that valuation, then you were given more latitude in what you could carry on. Unfortunately, none of our other colleagues in the industry followed a similar value-based rule for how many pieces of luggage you could carry on, so we essentially reached a compromise of a hard two bag rule, at least for some of the carriers in the industry at this point.
And it does dovetail into your second point of unruly passengers because we get into missed expectations for passengers and their frustration that flows with that. Both my colleague at Delta and United, our passengers have, perhaps, a different expectation of what they can suitably demand on our flights because we tend to be a different service level carrier. We both have separate adjunct carriers, such as Shuttle by United and their Delta Express, if I have the name correct?
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WILSON. That's correct.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Which essentially is more on the model of Southwest Airlines, which you referenced. But someone who is flying 12 hours over to Asia has a different expectation as to the number of bags that they can carry on versus someone taking a short flight within California.
Your second point with respect to unruly passengers, we obviously remain tremendously concerned about that. We do see it as a safety issue and we are struggling to try and assure that the expectations of the vast majority of our passengers, who are not unruly or, frankly, unprofessional or uncourteous to our professional staff, that their expectations are met. We also want to assure that our employees' expectations which are completely justifiedof a safe workplace are also met.
Dr. COOKSEY. Well, Ms. Longmuir, I can remember when there were a couple of airlines that were courageous enough, and I think correct enough, to go out and say, ''We're going to have a no-smoking policy.'' And I'm sure they lost a few passengers. But that was not something that emanated from Congress or another rule or another law or another regulation. Now, all the airlines are very wisely prohibiting smoking in the airplanes, not only on domestic flights and ona lot of international flights.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Right.
Dr. COOKSEY. I personally would rather see this happen. But you have more experience in this than I do. Would there be anything illegal or wrong, Mr. Gardner, with the airlines getting together and saying, ''This is going to be our policy. We're going to have a one carry-on bag limit,'' or would the FTC get involved and say, ''No, you cannot collaborate.'' Because that would be the same type of collaboration that you were talking about with regard to fares.
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Mr. GARDNER. I can't speak to the actual legality. I know we always encourage the airlines getting together in safety issues and I would think where this involves safety, that would be a good idea. I'm afraid I can't speak to the economic collaboration issue but I support the comments you've made.
Ms. WILSON. Congressman?
Dr. COOKSEY. Yes, ma'am?
Ms. WILSON. We stated earlier that the ATA had convened a group of representatives from member airlines to try and arrive at a consensus and it was unsuccessful.
Dr. COOKSEY. Try to?
Ms. WILSON. Arrive at a standardized policy.
Dr. COOKSEY. Oh, I see. Okay. And, Ms. Longmuir, you said that you actually had basically a demonstration project, the way that Congress would have done, you used Des Moines, Iowa?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Correct. We used that really as a research tool, if you will, prior to the implementation of what is now our policy, effective May 15th, which was value-based depending on whether you were on the most restricted excursion fare, you were allowed to bring one bag. And as your restrictions became less and the price that you had paid for your ticket became more, such as a business traveler who has different expectations, we allowed two bags in that instance. And, unfortunately, as my colleague at Delta has mentioned, we're in a very competitive industry. We're in a competitive service industry and if another airline will allow you two or three bags then you may tend to gravitate to that carrier over the one with a more restrictive policy. So we have in this environment reached a compromise for United of two bags.
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Dr. COOKSEY. But that very competition has given the American flyer a lot more ability to fly. There are people who are flying who are probably the first generation to ever fly. And I think that's good. So I think that's right and proper.
Another question: what do you propose to do with unruly passengers? Has there ever been any consideration to stop serving alcohol on flights? Could this be done?
Mr. GARDNER. Well, currently that is the, and I'm not quite sure of the exact requirements we have in the FAA versus the policies that the airlines incorporate, but they basically do not serve alcohol to unruly passengers. They have the same responsibilities a bartender might have on the ground in stopping alcohol. One of the problems is those who come on to the airplane are already inebriated and then you take them up to 30,000 feet or about an 8,000 foot cabin altitude and the effects of that alcohol is greater on them as well. So it's an interesting problem we're trying to address. As I mentioned earlier, that is one of the issues that we are looking at in our joint groups with our safety agenda group in cooperation with the airline attendant, the Flight Attendants' Union, the pilots' unions, and the industry, as well as the FAA, to figure out ways of primarily focusing on education at this time but also looking at what are other appropriate measures we need to take as we address this issue.
Dr. COOKSEY. Another question. I flew here on Northwest, which has the quickest connection from Monroe to D.C. On the flight there was a United pilot flying up who would take an international flight to Europe. He saidand he was quoting this off the top of his headthat something like 60 percent of the airlines' revenue comes from a very small percentage of the flying public, basically business travelers. Do you know the precise number?
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Ms. LONGMUIR. I don't recall it precisely but I'll be happy to supply that to you, Congressman.
Dr. COOKSEY. It was
Ms. LONGMUIR. It is at the extreme as you have mentioned.
Dr. COOKSEY. Yes, I was surprised what a small percentage of the patientsI'm sorry
My new day job. But anyway, what a small percentage of the passengers really provide the margin of profit for the airlines. It was a surprising number.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Right.
Dr. COOKSEY. I'd just like to know if you would, Ms. Longmuir?
Ms. LONGMUIR. We reference those as our ''road warriors.'' And it is those individuals who have, frankly, given us a lot of research results and feedback about their displeasure about excess carry-on bags as well.
Dr. COOKSEY. Are Members of Congress ever unruly on the airplane?
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Ms. LONGMUIR. I take the Fifth on that?
Dr. COOKSEY. You don't have to answer that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ms. Longmuir, and Ms. Wilson and, Mr. Gardner.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Dr. Cooksey. We always save the best for last. Mr. Lipinski?
Mr. LIPINSKI. That's extremely kind of you, Mr. Chairman. And in regard to those unruly passengers being Members of Congress, the only ones I've noticed are the Republicans.
Dr. COOKSEY. Touche.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I knew I had an almost perfect bill but when ''Mr. Aviation,'' Mr. Oberstar said that this could be considered a jobs bill, I know now I do have the perfect bill.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Laughter.]
Well, maybe not quite perfect because not everyone of these airlines are unionized, so a perfect billwe'd have to get something in there saying that not only would they have to put on more baggage handlers but they'd also have to be members of the union. We're still working at it but Mr. Oberstar has helped me out somewhat.
Is this a historical day? Is this the first public appearance of the proposed alliance between the two giants of the aviation industry, United and Delta Airlines?
Ms. LONGMUIR. I would respond, Congressman, that we're always avid competitors. Today, we're on the same side of the issues, delightfully.
Mr. LIPINSKI. No connection here between the proposed alliance?
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way. Let's see where we're at.
How would Delta Airlines like to tell me thereno, I'll tell you what. Let's go to United for a moment. You were saying that you had a value-based policy in regards to carry-on luggage and you were talking about your least expensive ticket, people were allowed only one carry-on piece of luggage, is that correct?
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. LONGMUIR. It was based on, essentially, the amount of days that you bought your ticket prior to departure, obviously, with the most restrictions, usually that echoes the lowest price that one would pay and an additional restriction was layered on, which was that you would be permitted to carry one bag on board.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Do you still have that in effect?
Ms. LONGMUIR. No, we do not.
Mr. LIPINSKI. But you did at one time have a policy restricting some passengers to one carry-on piece of luggage?
Ms. LONGMUIR. We had a test site in Des Moines, Iowa where we implemented that policy emanating from that station only.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Now, when you had the policy in effect and those passengers were allowed to take one carry-on piece of luggage only, what else were they allowed to carry on? If I came on the plane and I was allowed the one piece of luggage, could I also bring on an attache case, a briefcase, a laptop computer?
Ms. LONGMUIR. I believe, but I'm happy to verify this, Congressman, that it was a similar list of exceptions that are in our current policy now, which would be a small purse, assisted devices, and a child-safety seat. But I'm happy to verify that.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Now, a child-safety seatbut, yes, let's try a child flying withI have a 20-month-old grandson. He and I are going to go from Chicago to Los Angeles. Now, does he get aI don't get to bring a safety-seat on for him unless he had a seat of his own, right?
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Ms. LONGMUIR. That is correct but what some passengers do is they bring a seat on in the attempt or hope that there will be a vacant seat near them or that they can relocate to that and in that instance, we've permitted it.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay, well, say I just buy a ticket for myself and I come on with that hope. Now, what does my 20-month-old grandson get to bring on, what does he get charged with? Is his safety-seat exempt?
Ms. LONGMUIR. The safety-seat is exempt. We assume at 20-months, he's not going to have his own personal briefcase or laptop.
Mr. LIPINSKI. But he does have his own diaper bag.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Right.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Is that exempt also? Or is he entitled to bring on his safety-seat and his diaper bag?
Ms. LONGMUIR. I'm not aware that the exemption would extend to the infant at that point. I would think that that would be the responsible parent or guardian at that point in determining what they need on board to tend to their charge.
Mr. LIPINSKI. What if I purchased a seat for him? So now he's got his own seat so he gets to bring on his safety-seat, he gets to bring onbecause he's entitled to two pieces of luggagea diaper bag, and he just happens to have a briefcase.
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Now, I also get to bring on one piece of luggage, a suitcase, probably two suitcases since he's actually carrying my briefcase. Could we work that out all right and would that be permissible underneath your rules? But I don't mean to put United on the spot. I'll be happy to put Delta on the spot, that would be more advantageous to me since I fly United all the time and I want to keep a harmonious relationship. But I would assume we would be all right then. He would have his diaper bag and he would have his safety-seat, which really is an exemption, plus he'd have my attache case or briefcase, and I'd have two pieces of luggage and that would probably be okay. No one would complain to me. No one would say I couldn't do that, right?
Ms. WILSON. At Delta, I would have to say we have a slightly different policy.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay, well, what's your policy?
Ms. WILSON. Our policy is that it's two bags and our exception list includes a small purse, similar to United, assisted devices, similar to United, and only food to be consumed on board. So a child's seat is not an exemption. That would have to be counted as one of two pieces of luggage.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay, so even though I bought that seat for him and I simply put the safety seat on top of it, that is still considered something I'm carrying on?
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Ms. WILSON. It's considered one of the two pieces of luggage.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. We actually took that flight not too long agoit wasn't only him and me; it was his mother and my wife and our sonto California, and we didn't have any trouble. Of course, all we had was his safety seat. The funniest part about it waswell, no, I won't go into that.
So, Delta would support the FAA implementing something that would restrict people to two bags, correct?
Ms. WILSON. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. The same goes for United?
Ms. LONGMUIR. We would say yes to the two bags as a compromise at this point, having tried the Des Moines example and not having really had any other support or following in the industry.
Mr. LIPINSKI. And you would oppose one bag.
Ms. LONGMUIR. At this point I would say yes.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WILSON. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. If it wasbut two bags; you get to bring a purse on you also, right?
Ms. WILSON. Right now, the purse is an exemption at Delta, but under what we are proposing, the purse would be one of the two carried on bags.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Is the purse an exemption at United?
Ms. LONGMUIR. It is a small purse, which is measured by 25 linear inches.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Does anybody ever measure this stuff?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Well, I think our gate agents and those folks who are front line have received training in this prior to the implementation, and at least I've learned that just about anything I wheel or carry on is beyond the limits.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. So underneath the policy you're anticipating, it's going to be one bag and one purse.
Ms. WILSON. If that's the two pieces they choose to carry on.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Well, okay. Now, you're still with two, and they can bring on a purse. That's an exemption, correct?
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Ms. LONGMUIR. Right. An exemption includes an assistive device, a walker
Mr. LIPINSKI. What's an assistive device?
Ms. LONGMUIR. For a handicapped person
Mr. LIPINSKI. Oh, okay; that's what I thought it was.
Ms. LONGMUIR. And then the last area would be outer garments, a hat, overcoat
Mr. LIPINSKI. Now, your policy is theso if my wife gets on the plane, she can have her two carry-on bags plus her purse. If I get on the plane I can have my two carry-on bags, but I really can't have anything else, right?
Ms. LONGMUIR. I think that's correct.
Mr. LIPINSKI. So you're discriminating against me, correct?
Ms. LONGMUIR. It's nothing personal, sir.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LIPINSKI. No; I know it's not personal.
Mr. GARDNER. You could carry a purse, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. We're just building a case here for our legislation, that's all. We're notit's nothing personal whatsoever.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Well, if you wish to carry it and call it your wife's purse, then I'm sure you could get through.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Well, then she gets discriminated against. Well, could she carry it? Well, no; that wouldn't work out. Or maybe we could have two purseseach one.
Ms. LONGMUIR. There you go.
Mr. LIPINSKI. And there would be no reason why I couldn't carry a purse.
Mr. GARDNER. Right.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I'm going to have to try that one. So, now we're up to three apiece. Pretty soon we're going to be up to where I've got one underneath this arm, one underneath this arm, one in this hand, and one in this hand, and I'm back to four like so many people I see coming on to flights. Okay.
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How are youyou talked about some kind of laser device. Would you run that by me one more time?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Certainly. Our vice president for corporate safety, Captain Ed Soliday, has in development in testing a screening product which has a laser component in it which essentially takes a picture of the bag that's being screened that instantaneously takes its measurements to essentially assess its linear dimensions.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Just when you're going through security?
Ms. LONGMUIR. Right, right. Because our goal, as I said earlier today, is to try and capture those excess and oversized bags, really, as far out into the lobby, away from the gate, and certainly away from the jetway or aircraft, as possible.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Gardner, I don't want to leave you out of this.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Besides, you're the most outspoken in behalf of my bill. You called it simple. I hope you don't mean it was simple-minded, but
Mr. GARDNER. No, sir.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LIPINSKI. I know you didn't, I know. Right now all the carriers are allegedly submitting to you a baggage policy, correct?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. They already have that as part of their operations specifications.
Mr. LIPINSKI. And they have all submitted it to you?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. You areeverybody knows we're not satisfied with what is going on at the present time, so the FAA is developing a new policy which you hope to have out by the end of the month.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Is there anyyou mentioned one aspect of it. Is there any other aspect of your policy that you're prepared to reveal to us at the present time, or do you want to keep that secret until the end of the month?
Mr. GARDNER. It's not an effort to keep it secret, sir. I'm not knowledgeable in the details of the advisory circular. It does have to go through an approval process, obviously, but we should have it out at the end of the month. I think the big things are requiring the carriers to have good, clear definitions of what is allowed in carry-on baggage and what is the proper stowage of that carry-on baggage?
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Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your indulgence. I simply want to say in conclusion herethis panel has been here a long timeI appreciate them all being here. I appreciate their contributions, and I think that we could say that at least United and Delta are not necessarily prone to, or adverse to, some re-regulation of the aviation industry in light of the fact that they are both passing the ball to the Federal Government to do something about their carry-on luggage.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you, Mr. Lipinski, and I want to thank this panel for being with us. We do need to move on to our second panel, and we'll do that at this time. Thank you very much.
Ms. LONGMUIR. Thank you.
Ms. WILSON. Thank you.
Mr. GARDNER. Thank you, sir.
Mr. DUNCAN. The second panel consists of Captain Stephen Luckey, who is chairman of the National Security Committee for the Airline Pilots Associationwe'd like to ask the second panel to go ahead and move into the seats there at the tableand also Patricia A. Friend, who is the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants; Carol Knaffl, who is a flight attendant, and Christa Tess, who is a flight attendant. And I want to say welcome to all of you. I appreciate your patience in waiting.
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And I do want to give a special welcome to one of my constituents, one of my bosses, Carol Knaffl, who is more than just a constituent. As some people here know, I was a lawyer and a judge. I was a criminal court judge for 7 1/2 years before coming to Congress, but prior to that I was in the private practice of law, and Ms. Knaffl was secretary for several years to one of the other judges at the courthouse, Chancellor Fred McDonald, a close friend of mine.
Ms. Knaffl was always very helpful to me, and I have known her for many, many years, prior to her service as a flight attendant, and I have great respect for her. And this hearing has come about, in part, at least, after she visited me in my office in Knoxville and told me some of the experiences she had had about which she will testify here today. So, I thank all of you for being here, but, Carol, thank you especially.
And we always proceed, as I stated earlier, in the order that the witnesses are listed on the call of the hearing. And that means, Captain Luckey, that we will start with your testimony first, please.
TESTIMONY OF CAPTAIN STEPHEN LUCKEY, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE, AIRLINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL; PATRICIA A. FRIEND, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS; CAROL KNAFFL, FLIGHT ATTENDANT; AND CHRIS TESS, FORMER AMERICAN EAGLE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
Mr. LUCKEY. Thank you and good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. I'm Captain Stephen Luckey, chairman of the Airline Pilots Association National Security Committee, and I'd like to thank you all for the opportunity to offer our perspective from the cockpit of the industry.
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Our association represents approximately 49,000 pilots who fly commercially for 48 airlines in the United States and Canada. I've submitted a more detailed written statement and will briefly summarize the highlights of it at this time.
You know, as an international 747 captain, I often point out to people that I fly the world's largest passenger airplane, and we do it with a two-pilot crew. The 747-400 that I fly is roughly 230 feet long, and that's almost twice as long as the entire length of the Wright brothers' first flight. I don't tell people that so that I can pass on some interesting trivia, as much as I do so that they can get some idea of the enormous responsibility that my colleagues and I feel when we're flying over 400 passengers or so around the world. This also illustrates the dramatic changes that are continuously taking place in aviation.
Today's hearing is focusing on two topics, and I'll say a few words about carry-on bags in a minute. As pilots, of course we're very concerned about the baggage on our aircraft, but I have to tell you that in reality our passengers have as much to fear from the attitudes, the emotions, and the behaviors that are coming on the aircraft as well.
Our association hosted a very successful conference last year on the problem of disruptive airline passengers, and we talked about some of the possible causes behind the rise in physical and verbal assaults that we are seeing from some of our customers. Congressman Jim Oberstar made a significant contribution to the success of the conference by delivering our keynote address there.
Without question, passenger interference is the single most pervasive security problem facing the airline industry worldwide. Incidents of passengers lashing out at flight attendants, pilots, and their fellow passengers are on the upswing, and if they're left unchecked, it's only a matter of time before one of these incidents escalates in a free-for-all that will eventually reach the cockpit. The results, of course, could be very catastrophic, and the majority of these incidents never get recorded. Many of them don't even get reported.
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Historically, flight crews and members' past experiences echo that nothing will happen to them anyway, so why say anything? Some of these incidents are so horrific that they've made the evening news, but this is just anecdotal reporting. We need to establish a nationwide, uniform database to track these incidents just as we track current crimes on the ground because that's what they actually are. We especially need to be able to monitor these incidents in order to evaluate the success of our remedial efforts.
Many of the incidents, as I've mentioned, often have an alcohol-related component. We think that industry-wide, carriers need to adopt a responsible set of guidelines involving passengers and alcohol. However, even if we eliminate the alcohol problem, that would eliminate only approximately one-third, and in some cases two-thirds, of the disruptive passenger incidents. We actually need to do a lot more.
For example, we believe that U.S. carriers should follow the lead of certain international carriers, like Cathay Pacific, and provide their flight crews with actual confrontational management training on how to diffuse hostile situations and avoid physical injury. Airlines give their flight attendants extensive training on how to evacuate a 900,000-pound, 400-passenger airplane, but they receive relatively few instructions on how to handle an irate 200-pound paying customer, and we need to change that just pure and simple.
We also know that it's extremely important to send a very strong message to anyone traveling our skies that malicious actions are a danger to our passengers and to our flight crews and will not be tolerated. I believe that every single country must send the same message, loud and clear. If you conduct yourself in a way that interferes with the safety of any commercial airline flight and you land in our country, you will be prosecuted.
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In Canada, the aircraft commander has arrest authority, and, admittedly, it's seldom used, but, nevertheless, it sends a strong deterrent message to the traveling public. Most people misbehave simply because they can. An effective public education program would be a significant contribution.
There's one facet of this problem that our Government does or should have control over, and that's the unescorted transport of deportees out of this country via commercial airliners. Some of the most egregious examples of passenger misconduct have involved these individuals.
Four years ago the Senate passed a non-binding resolution covering the transport of deportees, and last May Congressman Duke Cunningham, from California, following a pretty horrendous story in the San Diego Union Tribune involving some deportees and an unescorted 12-year-old girl, appealed to INS Commissioner Meisner for greater controls, and, to date, I don't believe anything much has been done. That's not fair to us and, most assuredly, it's not fair to our unsuspecting passengers.
I'd also like to make a brief observation at this time on our second topic, the Carry-On Baggage Reduction Act of 1997. Our written statement details the very real dangers to safe operation and the risk in an emergency when passengers are allowed to carry too many heavy bags into the passenger cabin. The proposed legislation suggests establishing the carry-on limits at one bag per person, but, you know, human nature being what it is, if it fits through the door, they're going to bring it on.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We would like to propose instead that a bulk-size limitation for carry-on baggage be established, and we'd like to work with the airlines and flight attendants to develop reasonable guidelines in this area that would be effective and, most important, safe.
At this time I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address the subcommittee today. On behalf of the Airline Pilots Association, I'd be happy to entertain any questions you might have. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
Ms. FRIEND. Thank you and good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee.
My name is Patricia Friend, and I'm the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, and we thank you for this opportunity to address the subcommittee about two growing problems for flight attendants: excess carry-on baggage and passenger interference with crew members.
I'll begin with the issue of carry-on baggage on commercial aircraft. In 1984, citing health and safety problems for flight attendants, AFA filed a petition for rulemaking with the FAA asking for specific limits on carry-on baggage. In 1988, the FAA finally released the rule you have heard described here by Mr. Gardner. The rule did not mention baggage size limitations, amount of baggage, or make any designation of responsibility for enforcement of the carrier's program. Ten years later, the issue of excess and oversized cabin baggage is still with us. The myriad of airline policies in existence today cause confusion among passengers and employees and often lead to confrontations.
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The increase in luggage being brought into the cabin has also raised serious concerns about excess weight on the aircraft. This hidden weight not only jeopardizes the structural integrity of overhead bins, but it affects aircraft weight and balance calculations, endangering the safety of the entire aircraft.
In aircraft incidents or accidents, the quick and safe evacuation of passengers is endangered by aisles, exits, and slide paths cluttered with baggage from overhead bins and from exiting passengers intent on retrieving baggage they have carried into the cabin.
The FAA's advisory guidance on carry-on baggage has failed. Again, the FAA proposes revising the original rule, yet still fails to propose clear, concise language that establishes a uniform industry-wide standard or a means of enforcing the carrier rules. Past experience tells us that this is the wrong approach.
What passengers and flight attendants need are carry-on bag rules that include precise limitslimits on the amount of baggage brought into the aircraft cabin, limits that specify maximum weight of items, limits that specify the maximum size of items, limits that are universal, mandatory, and actively enforced by the carriers and regulators.
AFA's recommendations are based on volume. Under our proposal, all carry-on items must fit within a sizer box with the total dimensions not to exceed 45 linear inches. Enforcement of the carry-on rule would take place well before the aircraft door, ideally before the security checkpoint.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Before I move on to the next issue, which is the subject of this hearing, I do want to thank Representative Bill Lipinski for his initiative and commitment to limiting carry-on baggage. He understands the hazards caused by excess carry-on baggage, and we appreciate his introduction of H.R. 3064. While we remain fearful that a one-bag minimum, as called for in his bill, will not eliminate the problem, we do look forward to working with him to draft language that will accomplish our mutual goal.
Another threat to flight attendant safety in the workplace is the alarming increase in crew member interference, which ranges from verbal to physical assault from airline passengers. In 1996, when this phenomenon became painfully apparent, the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, representing 100,000 U.S.-based flight attendants, worked very productively with the FAA on a draft advisory circular. The AC included policies and procedures for air carriers to respond to this growing threat to flight attendant safety. The result is a model program of zero tolerance for assaults by passengers on crew members.
Under this program, flight attendants are encouraged to report incidents without threat of reprisal. Assault reports follow specific procedures, and crew members are informed on how to request the presence of law enforcement. Passengers also would be warned on the penalties for assault. We're very pleased with the results, and we've felt that any carrier that adopted the protocols would be prepared to respond to the assault on any one of their employees.
We anticipated that uniform implementation of these protocols would lead to a reduction in the number of assaults. Unfortunately, because an advisory circular is just thatadvisorynot all of our carriers have adopted these programs. I give full credit to those airlines who have worked so hard to develop and implement effective programs, but they are, unfortunately, the exception. Too many of our U.S. air carriers have chosen to ignore the problem of crew member assault and continue to pretend that it doesn't exist.
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Absent voluntary compliance and improved programs, it may be necessary to require each U.S. air carrier to implement an FAA-approved program for dealing with this issue. A crew member interference program, to be effective, must include certain critical components: a firm, no-tolerance policy toward flight attendant assaults, emphasizing to all employees the carrier's commitment to employees' safety; joint training of cockpit-cabin crew and ground personnel to coordinate specific responsibilities and establish efficient responses; procedures and jurisdictional protocols for response by law enforcement personnel, and, finally, the public must be better informed of the Federal regulations and statutes that prohibit interference with crew members and the consequences for such a violation.
Reports of crew member assaults in the aircraft cabinour workplaceare on the increase. In addition to members who will testify here today, we are joined by other members who have been assaulted in their workplace. It is often difficult to recount such a personal experience in a public forum. These flight attendants hope their presence here will demonstrate their commitment to end this danger in our workplace once and for all.
It is horrifying to imagine what some of our members have endured on the job. They have been screamed at, verbally threatened, kicked, punched, hit, slammed against aircraft walls, all by outraged and out of control passengers. To stop these assaults, every carrier must act to put a program in place to protect their employees at work. If they fail to do so, laws or regulations must be enacted to require them to respond to these threats to the health and safety of their employees.
On behalf of AFA's 43,000 flight attendant members, I thank this subcommittee for holding this very important hearing today and giving us the opportunity to speak out on these important safety issues.
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Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Ms. Friend.
Ms. KNAFFL. Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee, my name is Carol Knaffl. I am a flight attendant for a major carrier for approximately 10 years. It is an honor to be here today to speak to you about the subject of in-flight safety, the growing problems of interference with crew members, and my recent assault.
I am especially pleased to see Congressman Jim Duncan, the chairman of this subcommittee and my Congressman from Knoxville, whom I admire and respect for his dedication to this committee and to the people of our district.
As you know, the primary job of a flight attendant is to assure the safety of the passenger by enforcing the Federal regulations pertaining to cabin safety. Over the past few years, flying has become commonplace for more and more Americans, and the observance of these regulations made to ensure air safety has declined substantially.
The airlines' perceived need to obtain greater and greater marketing shares and improve their bottom line has caused the airlines to routinely look the other way when the important aspect of airline safety is disregarded by passengers. Without backup, flight attendants have very little incentive to enforce rules pertaining to flight safety. Equally as important, passengers' conduct over the past years has deteriorated to the point where flight attendants routinely face physical assault, as well as verbal abuse, at the hands of passengers daily.
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As recent as March 23 of this year, I, myself, was forced to undergo an incident in which a passenger urinated on me at the conclusion of a flight. On that Monday afternoon, I was working a routine flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I was the B flight attendant in the rear of the aircraft. As deplaning was almost completed, I took the opportunity to wash my hands in the lavatory. I was in the bathroom as a passenger came to the rear of the aircraft and knocked on the door.
Seconds later, when I stepped out of the lavatory, I found the passenger unzipping his pants. At that moment I realized that he was going to urinate in the galley. I then told him that the lavatory was now available. He looked at me, exposed himself, and then, without saying a word, began urinating all over me, the galley, the door, the girt bar, and the bins. His urine ran onto my pants, legs, feet, and shoes.
Trying to avoid the passenger who was still urinating, I attempted to call the other flight attendants and the captain, but the interphone was inoperative. After trying to compose myself, I went to the front of the aircraft and told the crew what had happened. The agent working the flight came on the aircraft and after hearing the story told me, ''We will not tolerate this.''
After we searched outside the terminal for a few minutes, I eventually spotted him in the passenger side of the car. I asked him to get out of the car and directed him to wait. The agent and an airport police officer brought the passenger back to the gate for questioning. When I saw him, I asked him, ''Why did you urinate on me?'' He responded arrogantly, ''Do you know who I am?'' He just kept on repeating his professional background. When asked why he didn't just use his seat, he commented, ''I didn't want to mess up the seat. You had a vinyl floor.'' I asked him, ''I suppose I was part of the vinyl floor.'' There was no reply, just an arrogant stare.
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After the incident, I was determined to take action against the passenger. His behavior is unacceptable, and I do not want this to happen to another crew member. In my situation, if any type of action is to be pursued against the individual who urinated upon me, I must alone bear the cost, and I must pursue the matter on my own.
Two nights ago I received a message from the union representative stating that the FAA would not pursue the incident in that I was not performing my crew member duties at the time of the incident. Despite being officially in uniform and on duty, it is the flight attendant's duty to remain in the aircraft at your designated exit door until all passengers have deplaned, thus I was officially on duty and enforcing my duties.
Not only are the airlines apathetic about such incidents, they frequently award such abusive and boorish behavior with the compensation of free passage.
A fellow flight attendant, who is in this room this afternoon, was physically assaulted by a passenger simply for having run out of a type of in-flight meal which the passenger wanted. Although the flight attendant has properly recorded and documented the physical assault, no action whatsoever has been taken by the airline against this passenger for his unacceptable conduct. The list goes on and on. They simply refuse to accept the fact that such conduct is a problem and that it must be dealt with. Training programs are inefficient to non-existent.
To my knowledge, we have no clear policies with which to deal with such ever-increasing incidents and how they are to be addressed, or to provide any backup to the flight attendant who might seek recourse against the offending individuals. Moreover, it is common knowledge among flight attendants that they have silently adopted the policy that the passenger is always correct, and that any incident must be viewed as the fault of the flight attendant. To maintain peace, we must negate our civil rights.
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Such actions by passengers, which are increasing daily, and such attitudes by some airlines, create a working environment in which the flight attendant has lost control over ensuring flight safety and has no incentive to attempt to change the situation. Indeed, I fear that my mere appearance and testimony here today will create problems for me with my own airline.
However, the problems which I have spoken of must be addressed. Without a change in the current atmosphere, flight safety rules will continue to be ineffectively enforced, and the day will inevitably come when the consequences of such ineffective enforcement will have to be paid forpossibly by human life, and possibly in the lives of one of you today or of your loved ones.
I plead with this committee on behalf of my fellow crew members and airline employees nationwide to take a stand and make a difference. This concludes my statement. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, Ms. Knaffl, certainly we're sorry that you had to undergo such an incident, and people who do that type of thing should be banned from flying. They should be banned from flying for at least a year, and if you have any problems with your airline because of your testimony here today, you let us know
Ms. KNAFFL. Thank you.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. and we'll see what we can do about that.
Ms. KNAFFL. Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
Ms. TESS. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee. My name is Christa Tess, and for 2 1/2 years I was a flight attendant for an American Eagle carrier.
On February 4, 1997, as the only flight attendant working a flight, I was violently assaulted by a passenger. I am here today to talk about the assault and how it changed my life forever. On that day I worked the last flight of a 4-day trip. The flight, from Cleveland to Chicago, had been downgraded to an ATR-42, which only requires one flight attendant. The plane had 25 passengers on board, and trouble began in the first half-hour when the passenger, Mr. Richard Bowers, sitting in the front of the airplane, began to harass a commuting flight attendant. When she complained to me that the passenger was touching her, being annoying and vulgar, I moved her to the back of the airplane to a seat next to an off-duty Continental pilot.
During the beverage service, Mr. Bowers got upset with me because I did not have the type of beer or food that he requested. While he was annoying, his manner was not unusual; many passengers get annoyed on airplanes. It was unusual that he moved around the airplane a lot, staggering as he walked. He used the lavatory three times, each time slamming the door at least 5 to 10 times, then staying in the lavatory for about 10 minutes or longer. Later, I discovered that while in the bathroom he was drinking vodka from a bottle which he had smuggled onto the airplane.
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When the captain reported to me that the plane was in range for landing, I let him know that there was an inebriated passenger on board and that he should call for security to meet the flight. At about 500 feet, in our descent, Mr. Bowers stood from his seat, which is against Federal regulations. Not wanting to get out of my seat, I yelled to him to sit down and notified the captain that a passenger was out of his seat.
By the time I was off the interphone, the passenger had staggered to the back of the airplane and was heading right towards me. All I could do was put my hands out to stop him from getting too close to me, the exit doors, and the lavatory. He grabbed my forearms, and while I was still sitting in my seat he grabbed as hard as he could. I managed to get my arms away, but he flailed his hands and arms around hitting me repeatedly with his fists. The plane was still on its descent. He then sat on the floor next to me and refused to go to his seat. At this point, the pilot aborted the landing.
As Mr. Bowers sat on the floor and I remained in my jumpseat, he ranted that there was a man in the front of the plane with a gun and a bomb and that he was going to watch me die. I called the captain again and told him what was happening. I asked if we could land with the passenger on the floor and was told to try and get him into his seat. The captain told me that we would continue to circle over Chicago until I let him know that the passenger was seated.
I continued to explain to Mr. Bowers that he needed to get into his seat, but instead he pulled himself into a small place near the lavatory and remained crunched up on the floor. The commuting flight attendant then moved back to her original seat to free up the seat at the back of the airplane. Mr. Bowers then started screaming, loud enough for all of the passengers to hear, that the plane was going to land in the water and that as long as everyone could swim they would be okay. The other passengers began to panic.
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I now got out of my jumpseat and tried to calm and reassure the other passengers, while staying near Mr. Bowers. When I saw him place a hand on the seat, the Continental pilot helped me pull him into the adjacent seat, and we got him seatbelted in. I called the cockpit again and told them to land and to get the security to the airplane as soon as possible. I was relieved to hear the tires hit the ground, but did not know that the worst of the assault was yet to come.
After we taxied to the airport terminal and stopped, Mr. Bowers again began screaming profanities. When I walked by his seat, he pulled me on top of him. As I struggled to get away, he started kicking, hitting, and punching my entire body. He did not hit my face, but did bruise most of the rest of my body. I pushed away from him, and he tried to get me, but luckily was still seatbelted in.
Even though all the passengers could see the attack, not one person got up to help me. The Continental pilot seated next to him managed to hold down Mr. Bowers' hands so that I could get past him. I ran to the interphone and informed the pilot again that I needed help because the passenger was beating me. The first officer finally offered to come back and help me, and by the time I got off the interphone and turned around, Mr. Bowers was standing right in front of me.
As I asked him to take his seat, he got angry and grabbed me between my neck and shoulders and began violently shaking me. I kept asking him to sit down, as he asked me to ''forgive him because he loved me.'' Just then I saw the cockpit door open and told the passenger that the pilot was on his way back to talk to him. Mr. Bowers dropped his hands and went to his seat. The first officer, having seen part of the attack, then relayed this to the captain, telling him to get security out here now because the passenger is beating her.
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We could not open the airplane door until security met the airplane. After 15 minutes at the gate, the captain finally informed me that security had arrived. When I opened the door I was not met by security, but by eight ramp employees who were more interested in seeing the passenger then actually helping. I asked them to go and get security now. A few minutes later, two police officers from the O'Hare Airport police finally arrived. They stood at the bottom of the stairs and would not board until I told them that the passenger had hit me and agreed to sign a complaint against him.
We had now been at the gate, with Mr. Bowers on board the airplane, for 20 minutes. He was removed from the plane and handcuffed, and I was later told by police that he had been so violent that his mug shot had to be taken through the prison bars.
Once he was off the plane I started shaking, shaking that did not stop for 5 days. I was taken to the police station around 11 p.m. and remained there answering questions until about 1:30 a.m. I was up crying most of the night, and the next morning at 7 a.m., as I prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting with the FBI, I received a phone call from my in-flight supervisor who said, ''So, you were assaulted last night?'' I said yes, and she asked me where my paperwork was for the flight. She was more concerned about the paperwork than my well-being, and that was the first encounter with a company that never offered me any support or assistance after my violent assault.
For the next few days I attempted to get help from the company. First, when I told them that my back hurt, I was sent to the University of Illinois clinic in the airport. I was checked by a non-physician who told me that I was fine. By the third day, when I was still shaking and had not slept or eaten, I called the company's employee assistance program. It took 3 days of numerous phone calls to the director leaving desperate messages for help before he finally called me back. When he did, he told me he had been extremely busy. Here I had been assaulted at workone of the worst cases of assault American Airlines has ever hadand no one was helping me.
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Ultimately, the help I needed came from the union, the FBI, and the lawyer that I hired. After 2 months off, I decided to return to work. My seniority level gave me the security of knowing that I would not have to fly alone, which I was not mentally prepared for. I did have to work by myself on a couple of flights, but they were short and the crews were very supportive.
Then I was forced by the company to fly a Cleveland flight by myself, even though the other flight attendant was less senior. I was asked afterwards if it was out of my system. Although the trip was uneventful, I left the company after a month and took a workman's compensation leave from last August to March. Since I was not allowed to work while collecting workman's compensation, I moved from Chicago back to my parents' home in Minnesota and never returned to work as a flight attendant for American Eagle.
Last October, Mr. Bowers pled guilty to interfering with a crew member and was sentenced to 15 months in prison with a 3-year supervised probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution for costs associated to the incident not covered by my insurance.
Days after the sentencing, I received a letter from the company requiring me to see a company-selected physician. The physician, after the evaluation, told the company I was fine, and was informed by the company that I had to return to work on March 1 or I could be fired. I resigned on March 1. On that day I gave up the dream I've always had of being a flight attendant. For as long as I can remember, it is all I've ever wanted to do.
On one short trip my life was changed forever, not only by the assault, but by the actions of the company. I'm still in Minnesota, and I'm now studying international business at a college near my hometown. I'm hoping that this field will allow me to travel, but I will never travel as a flight attendant again.
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What happened to me should never happen again to another flight attendant or crew member. Passengers must get the message that they will be punished for attacking crew members. Courts must impose stiff sentences on passengers who violate the Federal statutes. Carriers must stand by their employees, doing everything they can to protect their safety and help them if they are assaulted. I fought for justice and continue to fight for justice so that I can make a difference and so that this will never happen again.
As I have said, I was the only flight attendant on that flight. My assailant endangered not only me when he attacked me, but endangered the lives of all of the passengers. If I had been incapacitated, there would have been no one on that plane to deal with an emergency. He also endangered the flight by attacking me during one of the most critical phases of flightdescentcausing the first landing to be aborted. This also jeopardized the safety of the aircraft crew and passengers.
I urge you to help us protect crew members who are dedicated to promoting and protecting your safety and health every time that you fly. Thank you for allowing me to testify before you today. I would be pleased to answer any of your questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Ms. Tess, and I will say the same thing that I said to Ms. Knaffl, that passengers who do these types of things on airlines should be banned from flying at least for a year, if not permanently, and we should
Ms. TESS. As far as I've been told, the passenger who assaulted me has been banned off of American Airlines.
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Mr. DUNCAN. That's good; that's very good. They should be prosecuted civilly and criminally, but we should take those types of actions, too.
I'm going to go first for questions to Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Chairman, thank you. I want to thank both of you for your testimonynot only you two, but all four of youbut particularly you two for your testimony about the horrendous experiences that you've had, and I echo the sentiments of our chairman.
We know that alcoholthe Captain said it was between 25 and 33 percent, you believe, is the percentage of problems caused by alcohol. Is that correct?
Mr. LUCKEY. Between one-third and two-thirds, depending upon which study you look at.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Oh, one-third to two-thirds.
Mr. LUCKEY. It's as little as 25 percent, and I've seen it as much as 70 percent. It depends on which set of statistics that we have. It's one of the reasons we need an accurate database in this business.
Mr. LIPINSKI. What is the other 75 percent or 25 percent? What causes it?
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Mr. LUCKEY. Well, it's a very broad aggregate of different situations, but a lot of this is, of course, is brought on by the industry right now. You know, this industry lost more money in 3 years, recently, then they made in the entire history of commercial aviation. As a result, in order to turn it around, they've made some very cost-effective remedial steps which has caused a big change. There's been a renaissance in the industry to maximize the profit potential, and we're experiencing a lot of delays, a lot of overcrowding.
Historically in aviation, if you have an 85 percent aircraft, it's full for all practical purposes. It gives you a little latitude to move, and now flights are constantly being oversold because people are booking on several flights. And as a result, in order to keep the airplanes full and maximizing the capitalization of the aircraft, which is very expensive, of course, they oversell seats, they offer a lot of very economical fares; there are fares on the Internet, et cetera.
We have a completely different group of people that are flying. I've been doing this for 31 years, and flying used to be a privilege that was represented and reflected by people's dress. Now you see people getting on with very unbelievable attire. I mean, it's just anything goes. You see people getting on the airplane in things that you'd see at the beach or at an amusement part or anywhere else. People don't dress up. They have very little respect for any kind of a discipline or anything like that.
And, again, it's a permissive society that we live in. People are getting more vocal, and they're expressing themselves in a physical manner without any reprisals, so if they can get away with it, they do it.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. Ms. Friend, do you have anyI'm trying to establish in my mind what the other cause of these problems are.
Ms. FRIEND. We don't disagree with Captain Luckey, but I believe the cause isthe cause is, number one, is inherent in society, in the way society is changing.
But it's a failure to fulfill the expectations that the public relations departments of the airlines have created for the passengers. There are more seats in each of these aircraft, less space. People are very crowded. The media releases from the airlines have led them to believe that this is going to be a very luxurious experience, and it is anything but. It's an uncomfortable, small seat. If they get anything at all to eat, it's probably a bag of peanuts.
The number of staff available to attempt to meet their needs is reduced, and their reaction, although I think it's completely inappropriate, their reaction for having their expectations not met is outrage and to turn their anger on the closest person, which is, unfortunately, in most cases, our members, the flight attendants.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Do either one of you have anything to add to that particular question? As I say, what I'm trying to get to is that we know a lot of it is caused by the consumption of alcohol, either prior to the flight or on the flight. I'm trying to get at some of the other causes, and I think some of the points that you mentioned are very good; yours in overall societyvery good also. But do you two have any other ideas on what might be causing these passengers to be as disruptive as they are?
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Ms. KNAFFL. I definitely agree with Mrs. Friend. I think, of course, the human race now is very angry. It's a very angry human race, and very hard to please. But I think it goes back to a loyalty. It used to be there was loyalty between employees and employers, and I think the airlinesyou know, it has been a very difficult industry in the last few years, and everything is for the passenger or for the dollar, and unless you show respect to your employees, then you're certainly not going to have the respect of your passengers.
I have had different individual passengers ask me on flightsI'm only one out of 9,000 or 10,000 flight attendantswhy do you all take the abuse that you take? It is apparent your carrier does not back you. I've had passengers to say, ''Well, if we cause any kind of disruption with the crew members and write a letter, we'll get a free airline ticket.'' So, I think it's up to the employees to back their employers and vice versa. Some loyalty and some principles and morality in our country and our companies would certainly help the human race.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Ms. Tess, you had this problem on an American Airlines commuter flight?
Ms. TESS. That's correct.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Into Chicago O'Hare?
Ms. TESS. Yes.
Mr. LIPINSKI. From where?
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Ms. TESS. From Cleveland.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Cleveland?
Ms. TESS. Yes.
Mr. LIPINSKI. This was probably a jet then?
Ms. TESS. No, actually it was a propeller plane. It's the longest flight out of Chicago that our airline does.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I'm very surprised. Cleveland to Chicago and it's on a turbo prop?
Ms. TESS. It's about a 1 hour and 45 minute flight.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Because I was thinking thatI was very surprised that you would have a problem of that magnitude on a commuter flight even at that distance, because I fly back and forth between Washington and Chicago twice a week, and I don't encounter any of these unruly passengers, quite frankly. I encounter an awful lot of passengers with an awful lot of luggage, but I don't really see people being unruly or unhappy or attacking people. But I was thinking it was because it's a relatively short flight. I was thinking that most of this occurred on longer flights.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC How longthe horrendous incident you hadhow long was your flight?
Ms. KNAFFL. I think the flight from Charlotte to Ft. Lauderdale is booked for something like 2 hours. The flying time is probably 1 hour and 45something like that.
Mr. LIPINSKI. So the duration of the flight really doesn't seem to be a key factor in these problems.
Ms. KNAFFL. Absolutely not. There was no alcohol involved in this incident. It was just that ''I'm special'' and
Mr. LIPINSKI. I was thinking now; you know we stoppedI was a smoker for many, many years. It's only in the last 7 or 8 months that I stopped smoking, but I couldn't smoke on an airplane for a long time while I was smoking. We banned it, and I voted for it. I was wondering, if we can ban smoking, maybe we ought to ban drinking on airplanes also.
Ms. KNAFFL. I definitely agree.
Ms. FRIEND. Actually, the association doesn't agree, and the reason we don't is it would simply create another confrontational role for the flight attendants to play to try to monitor that people were, in fact, not drinking out of their own supply which they had smuggled on the aircraft.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I've been in this industry for 32 years, and I still remember what it was like trying to enforce a limit on the amount of alcohol that we were allowed to serve in flight. We were only allowed to serve two drinks per passenger, and I remember the manipulation and the extreme efforts that people would go through in an attempt to get more than two. If you take it completely off the airplane, people are simply going to smuggle it on, and there aren't enough of us to be able to watch all the time that someone isn't drinking secretly out of their own supply.
But having said that, I would say what we really would encourage our employers to do is to implement a responsible alcohol serving program starting with ceasing to serve alcohol on the ground. We find it very difficult to believe that it is really necessary, as soon as a person walks on the airplane, to start plying them with alcohol. To train the flight attendants, as I said, in a responsible serving program, don't send them, in the interest of customer service, running up and down the aisle filling a wine glass as soon as it's empty. That's not responsible alcohol service. That's what we would encourage, rather than attempting to create a prohibition that would create one more confrontational situation for our members.
Mr. LUCKEY. One other comment. What we're doing==we have a good opportunity to stop some of this by not putting the problem on the aircraft in the first place. The industry right now is tremendously keyed up to getting the passengers on, on-time performance, and everything else. There is a minimum amount of employees and a maximum amount of passengers for efficiency's sake, cost-effectiveness.
There is also a tendency when this happens to put the problem out of the waiting areagate areaonto the aircraft and get it out of town. It's just human nature: I want this thing to go away. So they throw everything at it they can, and they've actually ended up subsidizing the delinquency of individuals by offering them upgrading, giving them frequent flier miles, buying them another drink on the aircraft.
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But what has to be realized in this situation is that when you place a problem on an aircraft and seal it in, it's just like putting a bad bean in a can of beans. I mean, you seal the problem in. But what people don't realize is that you also seal the resources out. We have no 911, we can't pull over, we can't stop, and our intrinsic capabilities to respond to these and address these horrific situations become very minimal in flight and also very horrific. So, if we could stop this in the beginning, educate our people more on both ends, from a passenger responsibility standpoint and also from a transportation agency standpoint. We don't put these people on the aircraft and get rid of them. We don't subsidize them. We either prosecute them if it's a prosecutable offense, and/or we send them down the road. We don't put them on the aircraft.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Captain. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you, Mr. Lipinski. You asked most of the questions that I would have liked toor that I intended to ask, so I can be very brief.
But let me just ask Ms. Tess and Ms. Knaffl this. We were supplied with figures from American Airlines that seem to indicate that these unruly passenger instances were really growing rapidly in number, yet a couple of our earlier witnesses said that they were remaining flat or there were not significant increases. From your conversations with other flight attendants, do you think that these types of situations are growing? And if so, are they growing rapidly or are they staying basically flat? What is your opinion on that?
Ms. KNAFFL. I think they are growing very rapidly, and you must realize, with all the thousands of flight attendants, when one has an incident, tells the other flight attendant there's been no recourse, that you've got to, you know, litigate on your own time, your own expense. And it's humiliating, it's disgusting, so there are hundreds and hundreds of incidents with flight attendants and passengers that are never documented, that are never sent in to the company.
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So I, myself, in the last 10 years have seen it triple, if anything. It's almost a daily occurrence. If you fly five or six legs a day and you have flown one leg that you didn't get, you know, basically cursed out, ugly gestures, with reference to luggage or whatever, you know, you say you've really had a great day. And I just think so much of it is not documented, but it is tripling, yes.
Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Tess.
Ms. TESS. I also agree that it is growing; I don't know how rapidly. We're hearing about it more commonly on the line from other flight attendants, but the public isn't hearing about it, so it's not out there. It's not public knowledge as much as it should be.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, of course, hearings like this certainly do a little bit to help in that regard. But Ms. Knaffl, you said that there are incidents that are not reported. Do you think that most of these incidents are reported, or do you think that most of thesethat most of the flight attendants just let these things slide?
Ms. KNAFFL. I think a lot of the incidents are reported, and from the flight attendants that I speak withand there are several in this committee room today that have reported this to the companyand they, like myself, received absolutely no response, no backing at all.
So when you're on the lineand I talk with peopleevery flight, almost, that I fly, someone has had a problem. And they hear, maybe, about problems from myself or other flight attendants that there is nothing being done. So there are people who will fight for justice; other people justthey're more followers; they won't do anything about it. So I think there are so many incidents that aren't reported because they just feel they are defeated before they begin.
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Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Friend, did you see this front page story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the number of sexual acts or misconduct that is going on in the planes? Were you surprised by this story, or have you heard about things like this?
Ms. FRIEND. I was surprised and I was a little disappointed that this is the focus that the Wall Street Journal decided to take. It is just another form of disruptive behavior, in our opinion. And, no, I have to say that we do not, as a general rule, get a flood of reports of sexual misbehavior on board the aircraft.
Mr. DUNCAN. Captain Luckey, I certainly have seen what you were talking about. I remember flying 30 years ago, and you'd get on there and people would be all dressed in suits and ties or very nice dresses, and it certainly has changed. You know, I'm disappointed that we don't teach young people to dress as well as they can afford, or that to dress neatly is not onlynot only are they showing respect for themselves, but they're showing, more importantly, respect for other people when they do that. And I wishI guess it just goes along with all this change and this lowering of standards all throughout our society.
Senator Moynihan said 2 or 3 years agohe said, ''We've been defining deviancy down, accepting as a part of life what we once found repugnant.'' And that seems to be happening in so many, manyor almost in every area.
Do any of you have any final comments you wish to make or any other points to wish you raise?
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LUCKEY. Yes, Mr. Chairman. One thing that I think would help to understand this problem is the relationship between customer and passenger, meaning one in the same, however from a completely different perspective. Historically, the carrier looks at the traveling person as a customerthey're marketing-drivenand in business the customer is always right, therefore they have been very hesitant to take any remedial action against them and therefore permitting the situation to manifest itself in the form that we now see.
From our perspective, the flight attendants are put on board the aircraft for the traveling public's safety. That's the first reason why they're there, and the traveling public really doesn't understand this. The flight attendant's job is safety of flight. The rest of it is nice and it's part of the service, and they do provide excellent service. They conduct themselves in a very professional manner.
However, from a regulatory sense and from our sense, they're passengers and they're governed as such, and this is the difference. I don't know whether I'm getting the point across accurately, but the customer-passenger thing is very important in the understanding of the problem and to facilitate it.
Ms. FRIEND. And if I could just add to that. Customers have rights, passengers have responsibilities, and the difficulty that we're having is that most of our employers are insisting on calling our passengers customers, which is fine, but that does break that train of understanding that as passengers on public transportation, they do have some responsibilities.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Well, thank you very much. You've been a very helpful and informative panel, and that will conclude this hearing.
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[Whereupon, at 1:30 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]