By Andrea Traut*
Airlines in the United States are currently experiencing what could be described as a modern golden age. In 2015, airlines had a record-breaking year—earning $24.8 billion in after-tax profit. In 2016, airlines earned $14 billion, and in 2017, they experienced their second-most profitable year ever, with after-tax profits of $15.5 billion. It is important to note, however, that the two biggest drivers of airline costs and profits are labor and fuel. Fuel contributes to about 10%–12% of operating costs for airlines. The drop in oil prices from 2014 to 2017 is primarily responsible for the record profits of recent years because labor costs are mostly fixed.
Despite the promulgated safety benefits of the rule, the practical threats it poses to airlines’ operations are too serious for Congress to ignore. Congress should reduce the flight-hour requirement and focus instead on a standardized flight training education rule because of the 1,500-hour rule’s economic consequences and the lack of evidence that the rule actually improves flight safety. Part I of this Comment discusses the background of the airline industry in the United States and the Colgan Air accident. Part II illustrates the legislative response to the Colgan Air accident. Finally, Part III of this Comment analyzes the successes and failures of current legislation and suggests a new focus on quality enforcement for air safety improvement.
*Winner of the 2019 International Womens Aviation Association Scholarship
Andrea Traut, Comment, The 1,500–Hour Rule: When Does Quantity Outweigh Quality?, 84 J. Air L. & Com. 267 (2019).