Passenger Bill of Rights Introduced on Capitol Hill

From takeoff to touchdown, airlines are struggling to get off the ground. Many of the same old issues — record delays, passenger air rage, congested runways — have yet to be resolved.

In an effort to remedy the problems, some legislators have introduced a new bill of passenger rights.

"It's a war zone out there," said Rep. Bob May, R-Mo. "It has to change."

The bill is designed to protect consumers against things like competitive-pricing practices by some airlines.

"I can fly from here to Washington to Chicago for less than I can fly to Detroit. That is 300 miles further," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. "Why?"

Many of the majors are in turbulent management times, with executives bailing out simultaneously. After reaching a contract agreement with pilots, Delta Air Lines' Leo Mullin will step aside as president and chief operating officer. Continental President Greg Brenneman is also quitting. They both have replacements.

But in Capitol Hill hearings on Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Inspector General and Transportation agencies underwent a grilling.

"We will be holding your feet to the fire," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee on Appropriations. "As you make your commitments, you will get off the island, and I know none of you wants to be the last survivor here with me."

Labor problems continue, though. For the moment, Delta management has put the brakes on a strike that would have had about 10,000 pilots walking off the job. Their union has yet to ratify the contract, however.

Still, many believe the passenger-rights bill is a sign of progress. Last year, airlines enforced such protections. Now, Washington politicians have jumped onboard in an effort to write it into law.

Their hope is the legislation will clean up the mess in the air and on the ground — and take the headache out of flying.