If Senator Barbara Boxer has her way, the Senate’s Federal Aviation Administration Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act will soon require airlines to “deplane passengers after three hours and would require [the airlines] to provide basic services such as food and water while they are waiting on planes.” The requirement is in the current version of the bill, and Boxer and another Democrat, Senator Amy Klobuchar, have threatened to filibuster it if the language is removed.
The legislation has already been approved by the House. In the wake of another long delay of an airplane in Rochester, Minnesota in August, there appears to be increasing momentum in Congress and among consumer and business groups for the legislation. The Business Travel Coalition, a group that represents 300 corporate travel departments, recently switched positions after a survey indicated the vast majority of business travelers support a tarmac time limit.
After long considering the problem one of airline service, Kevin Mitchell, Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, said, “Now we clearly see it as a health and safety issue.”
“It has nothing to do with inconvenience,” said Kate Hanni, founder of flyersrights.org and the event’s organizer. “As long as it’s a health and safety issue it’s got a lot of legs.” She said long waits greatly increase the chances of a blood clot and exacerbate other health problems.
An executive with American Airlines said he sort-of supports the bill but that if it’s enforced immediately, then about 6,000 passengers will be left flightless due to schedule changes. We think that’s an acceptable risk—and we say risk because we suspect he’s exaggerating—if that means and end to ridiculously long delays where passengers are left stranded for hours on end.