Up until now, the airlines have allowed any given senator an option to hold seats on multiple flights even though he or she had only bought one ticket for one flight. In other words, senators have been able to book confirmed reservations on multiple flights, improving the odds that they will depart on at least one of the planes.
But new Senate ethics rules threaten fines and imprisonment to any company that offers handouts to senators. In response to these rules, Continental, Delta, and Northwest have withdrawn the privilege. They say they fear that by giving senators this privilege they risk being accused of offering handouts. After all, ordinary customers are not offered this service.
Some senators are annoyed. They have asked the Senate's rules committee to make a statement to the airlines assuring them that they can offer this favor to senators without breaking any ethics rules about handouts.
"It's really hard because if you can only book one flight, and you can't make that flight, then you're stuck," says Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat from California, who suddenly has to fly like the rest of us.
[Story, and quotation from Senator Feinstein, via the Seattle Times.]