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Runway Rage Hits Capitol Hill

It's being called "runway rage." The syndrome occurs when air travelers get stranded for hours, bumped off a flight, or otherwise manhandled while trying to get to their destination.

A House subcommittee on transportation this week is hearing testimony on a measure that would give airline passengers something akin to a bill of rights. The Transportation Department says passengers filed 9,600 service complaints last year, up 25 percent from the year before. But not all passengers want the government to get involved. CBS This Morning sought both points of view from industry spokesmen.

Paul Ruden, CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents and the author of one of the proposals on passengers' rights, says fair and courteous treatment for travelers is one issue. But a second concern to his industry is the rise of airline reservations systems on the Internet. He argues that eventually passengers will pay more for less if "the airlines discriminate against travel agents and keep them off the Internet."

On the issue of airline courtesy, Ruden says, "The fundamental idea is that air travelers collectively own the system of public airways that the airlines use and are entitled to at all times courteous and timely information about what goes on. I think everyone understands the delays and cancellations are going to occur in our air transportation system, but there is a rising tide of dissatisfaction among the public about the respect that they get and the manner in which information is delivered or not delivered to them under those circumstances. The airlines are mired in denial about this."

John Meenan, vice president of the Air Transport Association, which represents the airlines, responds that there is no "denial." He notes that last year, airlines serviced more than 600 million passengers, "at affordable prices."

"We're concerned about these issues, we want to get to the bottom of that. But we want to add value to the consumer," Meenan says. "Travelers don't want to have regulations and government-imposed programs put in place that don't help them in the long run."

Noting that the nation's air traffic control system needs updating, Meenan adds, "We think it's important that we focus on fixing the problems that really will solve these consumer concerns most effectively."

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