"It's a problem for the airlines to perform the way they perform," said Dean Headley, an associate professor at Wichita State University who co-authored the report. "They just can't hold it together."
James May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association (ATA), which represents major U.S. carriers, will also participate in today's hearings. He recently blamed the industry's problems on bad weather and an outdated air traffic control system.
"The vast majority of customer service issues arise from weather and congestion flight delays that lead to misconnected flights, lost luggage and related complaints," May said in a statement. "These delays are inextricably linked with the government's outdated and inefficient air traffic control system."
In response to their problems this winter, JetBlue announced their own Customer Bill of Rights in late February.
The program includes a compensation plan for travelers based on the length of delays "within JetBlue's control." They exclude delays because of weather, air traffic control, crew shortages and maintenance problems. JetBlue passengers now receive vouchers based on the length of flight delays, as well as a complete refund if a flight is canceled within 12 hours of its original departure time.
"We believe our customer bill of rights is broader, deeper and more meaningful to customers than anything Congress could legislate," said JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin.
However, some airline customers demand that Congress take action.
"Passengers have no rights," said Michael Gast of New York City after he spent six hours waiting for a JetBlue flight to take off from Pittsburgh in mid-February. "I would ask legislators to re-examine a system that doesn't work at all."
In 1999, the airlines avoided congressional action by agreeing to improve customer service on their own, adopting a 12-point pledge, including the promise to "meet customers' needs during long on-aircraft delays."
Years of broken promises have led to today's hearings. Headley has a simple solution. "[The airlines] created this problem by a lack of performance," he said. "Just do what you promised -- that's all."