President Ford yesterday, sent Congress a revised legislative proposal to reduce regulation of the nation's airline industry - a move he reiterated would aid the traveling public and the carriers themselves.
Although the administration bill has been proposed seven days before the President leaves office, Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman Jr. said yesterday the measure is a "much better and more refined" bill than the administration's 1975 proposal - worked out after a thorough analysis of other proposals and the material gathered during extensive congressional hearings last year - and was worth submitting as a contribution to this year's expected legislative debate on reform proposals.
Hearings on regulatory reform proposals have been promised for early spring by chairmen of the Senate and House aviation subcommittees, and Carter administration officials have already pledged support of a legislative effort aimed at making the airline industry more competitive.
Stuart Eizenstat, President-elect Carter's top domestic policy assistant, earlier this week named air reform a priority item in the administration's first-year legislative program.
The thrust of the Ford administration's new proposal is the same as its earlier effort:
It would allow easier entry into the industry by new carriers and allow existing carriers easier access to new routes. The Civil Aeronautics Board has been charged in the past with using its powers to frustrate, rather than encourage, new entry.
It would allow individual airlines greater flexibility to raise and lower their fares. The CAB has traditionally used its rate-setting powers to establish standards for determining whether proposed fares are lawful by using an average of industry cost and revenue figures - a device many have charged discourages the kind of price-cutting that otherwise might be pssible.
It would reform CAB procedures to reduce dalays by setting deadlines for board action on matters, and give them less leeway in making decisions.
It would allow carriers greater freedom to drop routes they believe unprofitable, but guarantees service to those points abandoned because of the measure for a 10 year period by the use of a federal subsidy.
"As in the 1975 act, these reforms are phased in over time, so as to avoid dislocations in an industry which in some cases, unfortunately, has become too used to being protected against meaningful competition," Deputy Transportation Secretary John W. Barnum said yesterday.
The proposal deals specifically with some of the "failures, distortions and perversities" Barnum says have been spawned by the current regulatory system. For instance, Pan American World Airways and other carriers flying abroad would get immediate authority to carry "local" passengers on the domestic segments of their international flights.
Pan Am has been unable to get CAB permission to fill up what they saw were 1.3 million empty seats on those domestic sections last year.
The bill would also make clear that the board has the power to allow a charter airline to fly scheduled service also. Until a recent court decision forced it to change its position, the CAB had declined to consider an application from World Airways to fly coast-to-coast for $89 - on the grounds that it did not have the authority to grant a carrier the two types of federal certification needed.
In addition, the bill would set up a phased program for the removal of restrictions the CAB has placed on the operations of carriers, such as forbidding a carrier to pick up or discharge passengers at certain points on its routes or requiring it to stop at intermediate points along a particular route.