Stuck On The Plane And There's No Recourse

In this photo taken with a cell phone by a passenger, people aboard JetBlue Flight 751 to Cancun walk around the cabin while waiting to take off at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007. AP

After being stuck for 11 hours on a parked airplane during a snow and ice storm, JetBlue passengers found out there's nothing they can do about it.

There are no government regulations limiting the time an airline can keep passengers on grounded aircraft.

The airlines' voluntary code of conduct simply says that during such extraordinary delays, they will make "reasonable efforts" to meet passenger needs for food, water, restroom facilities and medical assistance.

But JetBlue's ice-storm meltdown is fueling new calls for a passengers' bill of rights — a law that would actually outlaw what happened, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.

Airlines have blocked attempts to set minimum legal standards for customer service by agreeing to a voluntary code of conduct that they have not always followed.

JetBlue is offering apologies, free tickets and refunds for not getting passengers off the planes sooner.

Kate Hanni says she won't trust airline promises. She was stranded for eight hours on an American Airlines jet in Texas over New Year's. Now, she's leading the passengers' revolt, Orr reports.

"It's not right and it was inhuman what happened to us and the only way we can be able to prevent it is by having a law passed," said Hanni, who leads the Coalition for Passengers' Bill of Rights.

Hanni's site has already collected 4,200 signatures.

The proposed bill of rights would ensure passengers are:
  • held no longer than three hours on a grounded flight
  • notified of delays within 10 minutes
  • guaranteed food, water, sanitary facilities and medical attention during long waits on the tarmac

    Sean Corrinet of Salem, Mass., spent almost nine hours Wednesday aboard a JetBlue flight for Cancun, Mexico, that never got off the ground. She said the crew passed out bags of chips — the only food available — and periodically cracked the hatch to let in fresh, cool air.

    The airline acknowledged that it hesitated nearly five hours before calling for a fleet of buses to unload at least seven jets that spent the day sitting on runways because of the weather and congestion at the gates.

    A similar incident happened in late December, when American Airlines and American Eagle diverted 121 flights bound for Dallas to other cities because of thunderstorms. About 5,000 passengers were left sitting on parked aircraft, some for eight hours.

    The Dec. 30 incidents prompted American to say it would put a four-hour limit on how long passengers would be kept on grounded planes.

    Hanni, of Napa, Calif., was one of the trapped passengers. Her flight was supposed to go from San Francisco to Dallas.

    "We were put in the closest position to the terminal and allowed to sit for, actually, almost nine hours," Hanni told . "They thought we would be able to (take off) for the first three hours. But then for the last six, six-and-a-half hours, they knew they wouldn't."
    • Tucker Reals

      Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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