Airline passenger woes capture attention of Congress

The issue of consumer protections for airline passengers has captured the attention of Congress.

A U.S. House transportation committee hearing on Tuesday will examine U.S. airline customer service policies, looking at “what can be done to improve the flying experience for American travelers.” United CEO Oscar Munoz is scheduled to testify, along with executives from American, Southwest and Alaska Airlines and a Consumers Union representative.

On Thursday, a Senate aviation subcommittee hearing will “explore consumer protections and the state of airline travel.”

"The incidents we're seeing I think are passengers letting us have a bird's-eye view to things they thought were not fair," said founder Kate Hanni.

Meanwhile, flight attendants, pilots and gate agents are under pressure to keep flights departing on time while ensuring safety and security in this post 9/11 era.

Jonathan Stern, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney in the Schnader law firm represents airlines in cases where they are sued for removing passengers for reasons the passengers allege are improper. Stern points to federal aviation regulation that says interfering with the duties of a crew member violates federal law.

"You've got to listen to the crew members on an airplane. We're putting 100, 200, 300 people on this aluminum tube and somebody's got to be in charge of that," he said. "Things can get out of hand really quickly when cabin crews are not obeyed."

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