In response to the Continental Express (Colgan Air) crash outside of Buffalo last year that killed 50 people, Congress has passed a new bill aimed at bolstering the safety of airline passengers:
The legislation requires all airline pilots to log at least 1,500 hours of flight time before flying passengers, up from the current 250-hour minimum for newly hired copilots. The bill also boosts training, mandates the creation of a national database of pilot records and aims to reduce pilot fatigue by directing the FAA to update rules on pilot duty hours.
In addition, passengers who shop for airline tickets on the Internet must be notified which carrier will operate each segment of the itinerary.
To my knowledge, both airline websites and most consolidators already display which carrier will operate each segment of the itinerary, but I do think consumers should know that when they buy a ticket from United their flight may be operated by Continental, Air Canada, US Airways, Lufthansa, or one of the many United Express carriers, even if the flight is coded with a United flight number. Perhaps this information will now need to be more visible.
I think a more beneficial requirement would be mandating that the a/i price be displayed immediately when searching for airfare. A $238 fare is not really a $238 fare when taxes and fees are tacked on to bring the final price to over $300. International fares are especially egregious, when fuel surcharges and government fees can tack on hundreds of dollars to the final price. Airlines must think that pricing in this manner sells more tickets, but in my case (though I’m by no means an ordinary traveler) it just makes me mad. But I digress…
As for the new 1,500 hour requirement: I don’t think consumers will notice a big effect initially, but it will certainly be harder now for regional airlines to recruit aspiring young pilots, especially at the low wages they currently offer. As someone who has taken flight lessons, the difference in cost between the 250 hours of flying (the old minimum) and 1,500 hours is monumental.
Look for more ex-military pilots to fill these jobs in the future, as many civilians will be squeezed out of the regional pilot market by the daunting task of racking up six times the amount of practice than was previously required.