Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Renewed Call for Federal Passengers' Rights Law

Today's federal appeals court ruling overturning a New York state law requiring airlines to ensure basic health and sanitation standards for stranded passengers (see my previous post) brought renewed calls in the Senate to get the stalled federal passengers' rights bill moving.

Here's a joint statement today from Sens. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, and Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican. [The boldface is theirs.]


"Washington, DC—Following a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals today to strike down a New York State law designed to protect air travelers, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said it was more important than ever to move forward at the federal level with their Airline Passengers Bill of Rights.

Senator Boxer said, “The Court’s decision today reinforces the need to move forward at the federal level to protect the flying public. Those of us who travel frequently know that sometimes delays cannot be helped. But there is no reason that passengers should ever be trapped on airplanes for hours without food, safe drinking water or functioning restrooms. It has been almost a year since the Commerce Committee recognized the need take action and passed the Boxer-Snowe Passengers Bill of Rights as part of the FAA Bill. It is long past time to get this bill to the Senate floor.”

“Today’s decision places the onus on the federal government to take immediate action to pass our Passenger Bill of Rights bill,” Senator Snowe said. “With the summer travel season approaching, Americans nationwide will face the prospect of endless delays and no guarantee of service – the airline industry has proven its inability to protect passenger rights. Congress must put into place some sort of minimum standard. I would urge the leadership in to Senate to bring to the floor the Passenger Bill of Rights.”

The Senate Commerce Committee passed the Boxer-Snowe Airline Passengers Bill of Rights as part of the FAA Reauthorization Bill in May 2007. The legislation ensures that travelers are not unnecessarily trapped on airplanes or deprived of food, potable water or adequate restroom facilities.

The language included by the Committee also requires air carriers to develop and submit to the Secretary of Transportation their own plan, incorporating medical considerations, to ensure that passengers are provided a clear time frame under which they will be permitted to deplane a delayed aircraft. The Secretary would be required to make the plans available to the public. In the absence of such a plan, passengers would have the option of safely deplaning a grounded aircraft three hours after the plane door has closed. This option would be provided every three hours that the plane continues to sit on the ground.

The Senate cannot move forward on the legislation until the Finance and Commerce Committees resolve the funding issues in the FAA Reauthorization. Senators Boxer and Snowe today wrote to the Chairs of the Senate Finance and Senate Commerce Committees, urging them to act promptly to get the FAA bill to the Senate floor."


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