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September 19, 2008

Where McCain and Obama Stand on Air Travel: Part Two

Obama Plane
Obama boarding his plane,
McCain's directly below him.

AP Photo

by Barbara S. Peterson

To continue yesterday's discussion of the issues our presidential candidates face that could greatly affect the way we travel, here's more on where they stand:

Airline Regulation

Senator Obama has cosponsored an air travelers' "bill of rights" that has been pushed by consumer groups. It would require airlines to provide food, drinking water, and fresh air to passengers stuck on the tarmac and also to give passengers the right to demand a return to the gate after three hours.McCain has not endorsed the bill, and the last time he spoke out on the issue was around ten years ago, when as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee he briefly supported new regulations on airlines designed to improve customer service and reduce delays. He later backed off when the airlines promised to police themselves (with, apparently, mixed results) and has not mentioned the subject in his current campaign.   

Ending Dependence on Foreign Oil

Few industries are more dependent on oil than the airlines--jet fuel has gone from less than 20 percent of the carrier's total expenses to nearly 40 percent in less than three years. Even if the price of oil drops sharply, the search for alternative fuels to power aircraft is seen as critical to the long-term survival of the airlines. (Continental has announced it will test a biofuel-powered 737 this fall, but otherwise the industry has been slow to embrace the concept.) Both candidates are in favor of getting the U.S. to kick its addiction to foreign oil, but they have different ideas for how to get there: Obama supports subsidies for corn ethanol, despite the concerns that it could produce even more greenhouse gas emissions than oil; McCain strongly opposes subsidies for the biofuel. They differ on other alternatives as well, with McCain favoring nuclear power and offshore drilling, and Obama pushing a cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse emissions. 

Further reading:
* Passengers' Rights and the Presidential Race: Where Do the Candidates Stand?
* Obama's planes caused worries first in July, then again this month
* On the Fly: Barbara Peterson on the airline industry


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