Posted: Nov. 29, 2011 | Tags: Flying Cheap
The award-winning documentary we co-produced in 2010 with FRONTLINE, Flying Cheap, will be re-broadcast on Nov. 29 on PBS. The program focused on Continental Flight 3407, which crashed on approach to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in 2009. Our reporting revealed a little-known trend in the airline industry at the time: Regional airlines account for more than half of all scheduled domestic flights in the United States, and they also are responsible for the last six fatal domestic, commercial airline accidents.
Our investigation made it clear that the major airlines used the regionals to help keep fares low, leading to low pay and sometimes onerous working conditions for pilots and others. But the majors also keep the regionals at arm’s-length when it comes to overseeing safety, maintenance, training and other key elements of airline operations. Six months after the original broadcast, President Obama signed The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 into law, which included major flight safety improvements to pilot fatigue, pilot qualifications and flight training, all issues that the families of Continental Flight 3407 have lobbied for. The proposed safety rules are still going through final implementation phases and are currently at the Office of Management and Budget under review.
Because of the legislation, all ticket sales must now include what company is actually operating the plane. And the new pilot fatigue rule — a measure safety groups have pushed for more than 20 years — is going through the Office of Management and Budget's final evaluation process. The families pushed to get the rule passed despite increased pressure from the industry to weaken it.