Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) was the host to a conference last week to facilitate the creation of plans to accommodate passengers inconvenienced during irregular operations (IROPS), which I covered in the Jan. 23 issue (subscribers only) of Aviation Daily. Representatives attending the conference included airports, airlines, the Air Transport Association (ATA), passenger advocacy groups, the Dept. of Transportation, the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Patrol.
The conference was a follow-up to a conference sponsored by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in September, covered in the Oct. 1, 2007, issue (subscribers only) of Aviation Daily. The conference happened right before the DOT Inspector General came out with a report offering 10 recommendations to help DOT, airline and airports improve customer service for passengers. You can read my post on that here.
“We had seven airlines and 12 airports at the September conference. We invited a mix of regional and major hub airports, along with representatives from ATA and ACI-NA to get the broadest depth of understanding for our group,” said Jim Crites, DFW’s executive vice president of operations. “The main issue we addressed then was providing clear and consistent communications with all the stakeholders involved. We want the airports, the airlines, all on the same page when it comes to customer service issues.”
There needs to be clear and consistent communication with all stakeholders involved in IROPS, said Crites. "For example, airports and runways are clear and open for business. But operations might still be disrupted, which upsets customers," he said. "We need to make sure that airlines, airports, TSA and Customs are all on same page with customers."
One area identified during the DFW conference was concessions when flights land or are canceled late at night, said Crites. "People still need food and water. We encouraged airports to work with their concessionaires to make arrangements to open when customers are in the terminal and need service," he said.
Another issue was with flight monitoring, said Crites. "Airports, airlines and FAA can work together to track flights so if someone sees something that could become an issue, we can work to keep ramps available and not strand passengers," he said.
"We hope to develop a tool box of best practices that can apply for different situations so that airports can develop a plan in advance of an IROPs," said Crites. "ACI-NA and ATA embraced the idea of a D.C. conference to formalize and solidify broader outreach to all airports and airlines. We want to share best practices and lessons learned from airports and airlines."
The conference yielded a long list of best practices and issues that need to be addressed, Richard Marchi, ACI-NA’s senior adviser for regulatory affairs. “We want to create a list and have it available within a month for our members and the airlines,” he said.
And DOT has named members of its Tarmac Delay Task Force, which was covered in the Jan. 24 issue (subscribers only) of Aviation Daily. Among those chosen were Deborah McElroy, ACI-NA EVP-policy and external affairs and Benjamin DeCosta, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport aviation general manager.
One of the speakers at the conference was Kate Hanni, founder of the Coalition for an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights (CAPBOR). She became a vocal passenger rights advocate after it took 57 hours for her family to fly from San Francisco to Mobile because of weather delays during Christmas 2006. She has since filed a class-action suit against American Airlines over the delay. You can hear my 9-minute Podcast with Hanni here.