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A Bad Way To Run An Airline

Weather delays. Labor disputes. Security concerns. Allegations of antitrust violations. These are the problems that have plagued the airline industry since the start of the year.

Now, the threat of even more personnel strikes against the airlines looms on the horizon.

Fed up with the condition of the industry, disgruntled passengers have taken their case to Washington, where lawmakers are trying to develop a passenger bill of rights.

With more people than ever using airlines, Congress and the White House are listening to stories from customers who say they have suffered due to the problems confronting the airline industry on a daily basis.

Airlines To Rebut Horror Stories
CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports on testimony in Congress.

March 11, 1999

It was an unhappy new year for many passengers in Detroit.

Although the winter storm during the first week of the year caused problems among all the major airlines operating in the northern United States, it seemed to hit Northwest Airlines the hardest.

At least 4,000 passengers were stranded for up to seven hours on about 30 Northwest jets parked on runways at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport.

Despite NorthwestÂ's insistence that it did the best it could under the circumstances, it could not avoid a class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of thousands of people trapped on the airplanes for hours without food or water.

Some pilots from another airline took matters into their own hands in February, when American Airlines pilots held a nine-day sickout, and forced the cancellation of more than 6,500 flights.

The showdown between the Allied Pilots Association and American cost the airline more than $150 million and added to passengersÂ' frustration with airline carriers.

Some angry passengers filed lawsuits against the APA for damages caused by the pilot sickout.

Another month brought another problematic issue for airlines and airports.

Federal agents secretly targeted some of the nationÂ's largest airports and were able to crack the airportsÂ' security systems dozens of times.

As a result, te Federal Aviation Administration announced in March that it will conduct extensive reviews of 78 of the nationÂ's largest commercial airports.

Airport Security Crackdown
CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports on the Federal Aviation Administration's airport reviews.

March 11, 1999

And, as if some airlines were not busy enough handling legal assaults from customers, a group of Web-based travel agents has asked the Justice Department to investigate the nationÂ's airlines regarding antitrust violations.

The group, which includes Microsoft Corporation, is complaining about the airlinesÂ' aggressive online sales and the small commissions paid to online agencies.

Airline Ticketing Probe Sought
March 10, 1999

Less than a month after the end of the American pilots' sickout, another strike may be on the way.

As flight attendants for America West threaten to strike, talks between management and workers are scheduled to take place just before the strike deadline.

America West Strike, Talks Loom
March 11, 1999

Perhaps in answer to the many issues raised during the past few months, large increases in federal spending on airports and air traffic control have been approved by the House Transportation Committee.

Meanwhile, both the Senate and the House are closely listening to airline industry officials and passengers in an effort to determine how to cope with the increasing number of customer complaints and how to raise airline industry standards.

Written by Producer Lee Kaplan.