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October 27, 2010 - NTSB Code-Sharing Symposium - Chairman's Opening and Closing remarks, Washington, DC
Deborah A. P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board NTSB Code-Sharing Symposium, Washington, DC

This has been a very interesting and informative two days. 

In my opening remarks yesterday, I made the comment that, in convening this symposium, the Safety Board recognized that there was a need for all of us – industry, government and the travelling public – to better understand airline code-share arrangements and their role in aviation safety.  

We wanted to understand safety and how safety is measured, and what is being done to push safety uniformly across all carriers.  I think I can speak for many in this room in saying that the NTSB’s and the public’s understanding of code-shares and their alliances has improved during the last day and a half. 

As our discussions have highlighted, code-sharing is not a simple concept.  There simply is no universal type of code-share or simple one-size-fits-all business model.  Whether it’s a code-share partnership between a domestic main line carrier and regional air carrier, or two domestic main line carriers, or domestic and international carriers, these are complex relationships.

That is part of the education—to learn what carriers are doing and how it impacts air travel, whether we board a plane in Washington, D.C. or Des Moines.  So I am grateful to all of the participants – over two dozen of you – for speaking candidly and openly these past couple of days and sharing your expertise.

Perhaps the phrase “code-sharing” is itself a bit misleading – after all, only members of the industry ever use airline codes.  The travelling public might better understand the practice if it was dubbed name-sharing, because it’s really the airline’s name and their reputation that is being shared. 

Regardless of what term we use, we know that these relationships are growing.  Today, regional airlines represent more than half of the scheduled flights in the U.S. and we are likely to see these numbers increase in response to market demands.  Code-sharing provides consumers with convenience and accessibility, and it certainly has its economic benefits for carriers by expanding their network without investing significant resources in user travelled routes. 

As our presenters have noted, a great deal of coordination takes places between airlines and their partners, particularly in the areas of auditing, operations, and the sharing of safety data.  And that’s the way it should be.  After all, when an airline is willing to put their name, their paint scheme and, most-importantly, their passengers into the hands of another operator, the travelling public should expect and receive nothing less. 

There is no silver bullet when it comes to raising the bar on safety.  It is hard work.  And it won’t happen overnight.  As we learned these past few days, this is something we can achieve when we raise the safety bar equally across all segments of the industry.

One last house-keeping item –within an hour all presentations provided by our participants will be available on the NTSB website.  Also archived on our website for the next few months will be the webcast of the symposium.

I will close by saying that when we first announced this symposium, some sensed that the Safety Board was moving out of its lane.  But let me attest that this has truly been a learning opportunity.  We’ve gotten a glimpse of how air carriers operate – individually and in tandem with their partners – to address safety, one carrier and one flight at a time. 

On behalf of my fellow Board members, who have been sitting in the audience listening to the presentations, we thank the presenters and the NTSB’s hard-working staff for creating this opportunity to learn more about the aviation system.  When it comes to safety, our work can never be done.  Thank you for joining us in this effort. 

This concludes our symposium and we stand adjourned.