Air Passengers' Rights Returns to Congress

CAROUSEL: Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo lies on the ground after Spain's David Villa, not seen, scored his team's first goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Spain and Portugal at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. CBS

An investigation into the airline industry found that since January 2007 nearly 200,000 domestic passengers on 3,000 flights have waited for more than three hours to take off or taxi to a gate, according to a USA Today report released Tuesday

A so-called Passengers' Bill of Rights working its way through Congress would require airlines to allow passengers to get off planes that have been sitting on the tarmac for three hours or more. The proposal is attached to a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation recently passed the bill.

CBS News Transportation Correspondent Nancy Cordes reported on CBS' "The Early Show" that the bill is unlikely to clear legislative hurdles anytime soon with the Congress focused right now on President Obama's health-care plan. But that doesn't mean the idea is without support.

"This is a common sense law," California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, a member of the committee that approved the proposal, told Cordes. "It's easy for them to comply with."

Some airlines argue most passengers don't want to get off because they hope to eventually continue to their destination. If the plane goes back to the gate for even one passenger, it slides to the back of the takeoff line for everyone else.

"It means that you have a high likelihood of the flight being cancelled," James May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of America, told Cordes.

According to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the number of planes delayed for more than three hours at takeoff has actually declined since 2007.
By CBS News Transportation Correspondent Nancy Cordes
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