Jerry Costello is the co-sponsor of the FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2009, which contains several important new rules designed to help air travelers. I asked the Illinois congressman, who is also the chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, about passenger rights and the prospects that new rules would be adopted by the Senate and signed into law. Q
: The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index gives the domestic airline industry an average score of 64 our of 100 -- essentially, a failing grade. What do you think needs to be done to fix the industry? Costello
: Ultimately, service will be as good as an individual airline wants it to be. The economic pressures of running an airline - which hit rock bottom after 9/11, through the boom period of the middle of the decade, to another lull currently - will always be there. It is a cyclical business. The key is to be able to focus on the customer experience at all times, and Congress can help emphasize these issues. Q
: The FAA Reauthorization Act contains a number of provisions that could potentially help passengers. If they become law, which of the new rules do you think will improve air travel the most? Costello
: Short-term, I believe the emergency contingency plans for airlines and airports to better prepare for long tarmac delays can have an impact on the worst of these situations. We won't eliminate all of these situations, but I am hopeful the horror stories will be dramatically reduced. Long-term, empowering the Joint Planning and Development Office to really drive the NextGen process, and providing the funding to do it, will improve the system for everyone. Q
: In a statement following the passage of the Act, you called the new law "long overdue." Can you elaborate on that? When it comes to passenger rights, how long overdue are these new laws? Why do you think it's taken so long to get here?