June 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio June 1999 Current Issue

On Travel


Y2K check...Air accessibility...Insecticide

The FAA pretended it was New Year's Eve, and planes still flew

Testing, testing, Y2K. Using Denver International Airport, one of the country's most modern airports, as a base, the Federal Aviation Administration conducted a test of the air traffic systems at Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Longmont, Colo., by setting the system clocks forward to New Year's Eve and allowing them to roll over into Jan. 1, 2000. The FAA concluded that all systems are go for entering the new millennium.

In the early morning hours of April 11, when traffic was light, the test involved computers handling radar, weather and flight-plan data. Fifty-one planes were tracked, and information from the test system was compared with that from the system that was handling the traffic live. "A preliminary analysis of this data shows that the performance of the systems on both sides was virtually identical," says FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey.

In related news, the Department of Transportation has notified U.S. and foreign airlines that it has not approved any exclusion from its liability-insurance rules for incidents related to the Y2K problem, saying carriers must make sure their insurance covers all required claims, including Y2K.

Before there was an ADA. Just as air passenger-protection legislation is getting a lot of attention on Capitol Hill, the National Council on Disability has released a report documenting the ineffective enforcement of the 13-year-old Air Carrier Access Act. The ACAA prohibits discrimination by commercial airlines against individuals with physical or mental impairments. The key findings of the study include:

  • The Department of Transportation's budget and staff for ACAA enforcement are drastically inadequate.
  • Most informal ACAA complaints are not individually investigated the way similar discrimination complaints are when filed with other federal agencies.
  • The DOT has taken little initiative to educate the general public about the law and to inform people with disabilities about their rights under the law.
  • The ACAA provides no private remedy for individuals alleging such civil rights violations. The authors of the study offer a number of recommendations for remedying the situation. For example, they suggest establishing an enforcement unit that is independent of the Consumer Protection Division within the Departmental Office on Civil Rights or the Office of General Counsel. They also request that Congress appropriate funds for adequate staff and resources to run an enforcement office, including a line item for an aggressive public-education initiative.
  • Don't spray it. The practice of spraying pesticides in plane cabins while passengers are on board finally seems to be disappearing. Following the Department of Transportation's four-year effort to stop it, only two countries with direct service from the United States Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago still spray before passengers have deplaned. Six countries now allow spraying when planes are empty. In view of the changes, the DOT has decided to withdraw a proposed rule that would have required airlines and travel agents to notify travelers before they bought tickets if their country of destination required spraying. The department does, however, keep up-to-date information about the practice on an Internet site (ostpxweb.dot.gov), under the heading "Aircraft Disinsection Requirement."

    Female travelers speak out. In a survey, 500 women business travelers in the United States and 500 in the United Kingdom said hotels still treat them as second-class citizens. The poll, conducted by the Athenæum Hotel & Apartments in London, was a follow-up to a similar poll conducted in 1994. In the new survey, 86 percent of the women polled on both sides of the Atlantic felt there should be more women in hotel management. Also, U.S. and U.K. respondents alike complained that when dining in the company of a male guest, many waiters still assume the woman will not be choosing the wine or paying the bill.

    However, fewer businesswomen in the United States (39 percent) felt they received substandard service when traveling alone than their U.K. counterparts (71 percent); 59 percent of the U.S. respondents said they would complain readily about a problem, compared with 34 percent in the United Kingdom; and only 33 percent of the American businesswomen found hotel security arrangements adequate, while 84 percent of the U.K. respondents were satisfied with security.

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