Airlines' 'Bill of Rights' Is Lost in Transit

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It's been a horrible few weeks for America's airlines (and that's not even counting that terrible crash in Arkansas). Having hiked fares at the beginning of the month, the major carriers were forced to lower them on Tuesday. And now, having been poised for days to unveil a "bill of rights" to improve customer service, the companies demonstrated considerable disarray when on Thursday they aborted its launch.

The airlines’ decision indicates "that the companies are still having difficulty deciding the extent of the concessions they’re going to make to satisfy their critics," says TIME senior writer John Greewald. The majors have been under fire from the public and Congress for months to improve the way they treat passengers in almost every way -- from handling reservations to servicing passengers on board to providing refunds. The bill of rights was meant to be the airlines’ preemptive strike to stall congressional legislation, but their apparent decision to regroup, says Greenwald, "indicates that their final proposal will be carefully calibrated to give as little as needed to get Congress off their backs."