Buffalo, New York- January 25, 2010 – PBS FRONTLINE will air a one hour special Tuesday, February 9th, at 9 p.m. ET entitled ‘Flying Cheap’ – a revealing look at the inner workings of the regional airline industry. The documentary will explore many of the issues brought to light by the tragic crash of Continental Flight 3407 on February 12th, 2009, killing all forty nine aboard the plane as well as one person on the ground. In particular, it will feature telling interviews from former Colgan pilots and other industry insiders.
Although the passengers bought their tickets through Continental Airlines, the flight was actually operated by Colgan Air, itself a subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines. “I will forever be haunted by the image of Lorin’s itinerary, with Continental written all over it and ‘operated by Colgan Air’ in the very fine print,” stated Kevin Kuwik, who lost his thirty year old girlfriend Lorin Maurer. “The airline industry can make all the claims it wants about there being ‘One Level of Safety’ among the major and regional carriers, but until Congress and the FAA act decisively, the only similarities between Continental and Colgan in our book will be the paint jobs on their planes, and the flimsy paper their boarding passes are printed on. Not surprisingly, when it came to accepting responsibility in the aftermath, Continental was nowhere to be found – a classic example of the old bait-and-switch.”
A preview of this feature can be found at www.pbs.org/frontline/flyingcheap, where beginning on January 28th, additional footage of interviews will be available. It will zero in on the nature of the code share relationships between the parent and regional carriers, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of Colgan and other regional airlines.
“Since last May, we have worked diligently to raise the American public’s awareness of this inherently unsafe business model,” added Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert. “Hopefully this critical look at the industry by FRONTLINE will give our efforts a huge boost, and open our leaders’ eyes to the fact that our loved ones were lost because of airlines competing for contracts at the expense of safety, without effective federal oversight.”
The airing of this story will coincide with a concerted push by the family group in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the crash to get the Senate leadership to consider the FAA Reauthorization Bill. The bill, which includes numerous safety provisions addressing the issues associated with Continental Flight 3407, has been awaiting action by the Senate’s Finance Committee since late July.