Flight Delays For Air Passengers' Bill Of Rights

Much like the riders it seeks to protect, the Federal Passengers Bill of Rights is stuck on a legislative tarmac. It boarded the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, only to find it delayed due to an unrelated dispute over funding. Today, backers of the Bill of Rights said they were getting off.

“We should take it out of FAA reauthorization,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a cosponsor.

“We’ll attach it to any moving vehicle we see going by,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the bill’s lead sponsor.

At a press conference, Boxer, Snowe, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) called on the Senate to move the bill, citing ongoing flight cancellations and airport havoc as reasons for urgency. “I think our chances increase for a bad reason,” said Boxer of the bill’s prospects amid the turmoil. The group was joined by Kate Hanni, a passenger-activist who was stuck on a tarmac in Austin for more than nine hours.

The Passengers Bill of Rights would require airlines to provide passengers with adequate food and water during long tarmac delays, access to medicine and working toilets, and the ability to leave the airplane—de-plane, in airline terminology—if the delay lasts longer than three hours.

The senators differed slightly on the direct connection between ongoing flight cancellations and the Bill of Rights, because the Boxer bill deals only with delays that occur once passengers have boarded, rather than with outright cancellations. Schumer, however, argued that if airlines see Congress take action in defense of passengers, their behavior will be altered across the board. “They won’t treat them in so cavalierly a manner,” he predicted.
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