House Passes Passengers Bill Of Rights, But Don't Rejoice Yet

The House this week finally passed the Passengers Bill of Rights, ensuring that delayed passengers will have adequate access to food, water, and even restrooms. The ironically delayed piece of consumer legislation has languished for years, but the bill that passed the House still isn’t good enough. Under the House legislation, airlines themselves get to decide what constitutes an “excessive delay,” allowing them to keep stranded passengers on the tarmac for hours. Let’s look at the bill and see what changes need to be made in the Senate…

Here’s how the bill stands now. Section 42301 reads:

(c) Air Carrier Plans-

(2) CONTENTS- An emergency contingency plan submitted by an air carrier for an airport under subsection (a) shall contain a description of how the air carrier will—

(A) provide food, water that meets the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.), restroom facilities, cabin ventilation, and access to medical treatment for passengers onboard an aircraft at the airport that is on the ground for an extended period of time without access to the terminal;

(B) allow passengers to deplane following excessive delays; and

(C) share facilities and make gates available at the airport in an emergency.

Subsection B, the right to deplane, is a new addition since we last visited the bill. It still, however, needs to be strengthened. How? The Senate already offered stronger language in a previous version of the bill:

(2) Right to deplane-
(A) IN GENERAL- An air carrier shall develop a plan, that incorporates medical considerations, to ensure that passengers are provided a clear timeframe under which they will be permitted to deplane a delayed aircraft. The air carrier shall provide a copy of the plan to the Secretary of Transportation, who shall make the plan available to the public. In the absence of such a plan, except as provided in subparagraph (B), if more than 3 hours after passengers have boarded an air carrier and the air carrier doors are closed, the air carrier has not departed, the air carrier shall provide passengers with the option to deplane safely before the departure of such air carrier. Such option shall be provided to passengers not less often than once during each 3-hour period that the plane remains on the ground.

The Department of Transportation wants a Congressionally-defined time limit, and so do consumers. Why doesn’t Congress?

The Senate should insist on its powerful pro-consumer language when they take up the House bill to ensure that no passenger ever again spends nine hours stranded on the tarmac.

Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2009 [THOMAS]
FAA bill doesn’t hold airlines’ feet to the fire [Tripso]
PREVIOUSLY: Weak Passengers Bill Of Rights Moves Through Congress
(Photo: laser2k)