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Safety and Consumer Protection in US Airline Industry Essay (Article)

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2020

Introduction

Available scholarship underscores the need for players in the air transport industry to always ensure safe, secure, competent and ecologically sustainable operations as they engage in the business of transporting passengers and cargo within and outside the boundaries of their respective countries (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2014). In the United States, all safety, security and customer protection issues within the air transport sector are overseen by several constitutionally-formulated institutions such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Department of Transportation (Weensveen, 2012). This paper reviews and discusses one safety recommendation by the NTSB and one consumer protection by the Department of Transportation, with the view to demonstrating how safety and consumer protection issues are entrenched within the United States airline industry.

NTSB’s Safety Recommendation

The NTSB routinely releases safety recommendations that are usually expected to address specific issues or challenges raised in the course of undertaking a study or discovered upon successful completion of an investigation involving an air transportation catastrophe (Weensveen, 2012). Upon successfully investigating the 2013 accident involving a Boeing 777-200ER operating as Asiana Airlines flight 214, the NTSB came up with the Safety Recommendation A-14-037 with the view to not only ensure that all safety concerns relating to the accident were addressed, but also to avoid future recurrence of such accidents. The accident, which led to several fatalities and life-threatening injuries among passengers and crew, was likely caused by lack of adherence to standard operating procedures, lack of adequate training on the airplane’s autoflight system, compromised design complexity, as well as other operational and airplane design deficiencies (National Transport Safety Board, 2014).

The recommendation made to FAA by the NTSB upon successful completion of the investigation required Boeing, the manufacturer of the airplane, to consider developing “enhanced 777 training that will improve flight crew understanding of autothrottle modes and automatic activation system logic through improved documentation, courseware, and instructor training” (National Transport Safety Board, 2014, para. 1). Other recommendations arising from the accident include (1) developing design requirements for context-reliant low alerting systems for commercial airplanes, (2) undertaking research with the view to investigating the injury potential to occupants in accidents with substantial lateral impacts and implementing the findings, and (3) undertaking research with the view to investigating the dynamic that generates high thoracic spinal injuries in commercial aviation accidents and implementing the findings.

The FAA responded to this set of recommendations by arguing that (1) it would have been less effective to merely redesign the procedures for Boeing 777 but fail to consider other plane models that had their own potential vulnerabilities associated with design and operation, and (2) there was an urgent need to develop comprehensive guidance on critical issues such as mode awareness and training for pilot monitoring. On redesigning the aircraft, the FAA argued that it was far more plausible to persuade carriers to amend their own procedures rather than having to deal with one particular type of aircraft (National Transport Safety Board, 2014).

DOT’s Consumer Protection Requirement

It is indeed true that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has over the years imposed a myriad of consumer protection requirements on the country’s airline industry with the view to addressing various safety concerns associated with the aviation sector. In 2013, for example, the DOT developed and implemented the Airport Safety Management System with the view to not only enhancing airport safety through conformance with best practices in risk management, but also facilitating integration of formal risk management processes through promoting international harmonization with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards (United States Department of Transportation, 2015). This legislation represented a paradigm shift in consumer protection by moving away from an overreliance on past accidents in formulating corrective actions towards a proactive approach to risk management through the use of international best standards aimed at making the country’s airports safer and secure.

The expectations arising from this requirement have immense benefits for consumers and airport industries as they not only enhance the safety of airports, but also ensure that safety efforts within the U.S. airline industry become a fully integrated component of the business operation. Additionally, it is evident that the legislation adopts a systems approach to safety management instead of laying focus on analyzing past accidents to formulate future preventive interventions. This implies that the Airport Safety Management System provides the necessary capability for every segment and level of the U.S. airline industry to become an important player in enhancing a safety culture which underscores and practices risk reduction (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2014; Weensveen, 2012). Lastly, the requirement by the DOT promises immense benefits to consumers, particularly in terms of improved safety capability for respective carriers and reduced fares for passengers as a result of harmonized business processes.

Conclusion

This paper has reviewed and discussed the NTSB’s safety recommendation A-14-037 and the DOT’s Airport Safety Management System, with the view to demonstrating how safety and consumer protection issues are entrenched within the United States airline industry. Overall, it can be concluded that the NTSB and the DOT play an appreciably important role in ensuring that air transportation in the United States is operated within a safe and secure framework.

References

International Civil Aviation Organization. (2014). . Web.

National Transportation Safety Board. (2014). . Web.

United States Department of Transportation. (2015). . Web.

Weensveen, J. (2012). Air transportation: A management perspective (7th ed.). Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Safety and Consumer Protection in US Airline Industry." June 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/safety-and-consumer-protection-in-us-airline-industry/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Safety and Consumer Protection in US Airline Industry'. 20 June.

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