Stranded Airline Passengers Start A Blog; Campaign For “Passenger’s Bill of Rights”

A group of passengers who were stranded for 9 hours on an American Airlines flight that was grounded in Austin, TX have organized to lobby congress for a “Passenger’s Bill of Rights.” From the blog:

    Now things started getting serious. The lady next to me announced she had Diabetes, and began to beg the stewardesses for something to eat. She was shaking uncontrollably, and her husband looked really concerned. Her meds were in her luggage. The stewardesses found an old crusty bagel, and a milk (which she spit out instantly as “spoiled!”).

Eventually the crew took it upon themselves to pull the plane over to an open gate. The airline later apologized and offered passengers a $500 voucher, which is less, we might add, than AirTran compensated the booted toddler’s family. —MEGHANN MARCO

Coalition for Airline Passenger’s Bill of Rights

The Proposed Passenger’s Bill of Rights:

All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:

Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.

Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.

Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.

Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.

Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.

Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.

Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.

The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.

Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.

Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.

Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.


Edit Your Comment

  1. kastickboy says:

    “Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents”

    unless you can provide a detailed slip on what was in your luggage at the moment you entered the airport, there is no way this is going to happen. Also, you would have to get a fair market value placed on all items stored in your luggage which would be a process similar to a security check point, needing trained and certified people to place value on each item. So would you like to arrive at the airport 5-6 hours early from now on so you can sort all of your items and price them out? Get real, i understand these people were cruelly treated but now they are trying to make crazy demands for rights. Be reasonable and use some common sense when trying to lay down some ground rules. Good overall idea though.

  2. timmus says:

    The lady next to me announced she had Diabetes, and began to beg the stewardesses for something to eat. She was shaking uncontrollably, and her husband looked really concerned.

    Not to Monday-morning quarterback this, but if my life was on the line I would get out of my seat and cause a disruption, and if necessary make threats, rather than die at the hands of an apathetic crew. On the other hand, the lady should have been responsible for her own welfare and brought appropriate foods in case of a holding pattern, diversion, or whatever.

  3. TedSez says:

    “Oh, yes, we subscribe to the Passengers’ Bill of Rights, but this is a weather issue, so there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    “Oh, yes, we subscribe to the Passengers’ Bill of Rights, but this is a TSA issue, so there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    “Oh, yes, we subscribe to the Passengers’ Bill of Rights, but this involves our sister airline, so there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    “Oh, yes, we subscribe to the Passengers’ Bill of Rights, but our computers are down, so there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    “Oh, yes, we subscribe to the Passengers’ Bill of Rights, but our computers say your problem doesn’t exist, so there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    “Oh, yes, we subscribe to the Passengers’ Bill of Rights, and if you’ll get in line behind those 400 people over there, we’ll be happy to see if there’s something we can do about it.”

  4. Katharine says:

    I think the women is partly responsible for this. It is common sense not to put medication you need in your checked luggage. Airlines lose luggage all the time and you may need it later.

  5. The airlines will just whine to legislators and get what they want. After 9/11, taxpayers virtually bailed them all out to ensure that the industry would remain solvent (cut executive pay and superfluous costs? Absolutely not!)

    This is a nice sentiment, but won’t go anywhere. Owning and operating big metal tubes that hurtle through the sky at 500mph with 100+ people on them let you make up any excuse you want to get what you want.

  6. Coder4Life says:

    If the airline is stranded because of weather, they should just let people in the Airport and go buy whatever they want. I dont see why they have to sit there and treat you like a king. Things happen.

    Now if its stranded because they are stupid and retarded. Then they really need to make accomodations.

    In the case someone is sick “THEY SHOULD DO WHATEVER THEY NEED TO”. Even give the person an extra seat so they don’t die, if you remember earlier this week.

  7. missdona says:

    I learned this when I was “commuting” from NYC to Chicago:

    Repeat after me,

    “Never get on a plane hungry”

    “Never get on a plane hungry”

    “Never get on a plane hungry”

    You have no idea when you’re going to be hit with one of those ground holds.

    I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve thought, “I’m so glad I ate before I got on this plane”

    Also, it’s always a bad sign when they drop the video screens to show “entertainment” before you’ve left the ground. If you ever see that happen, you know your schedule is toast.

  8. I think it’s sad that we even need to do this… a lot of those seem like either common decency things or just plain common sense if you want people to NOT HATE your business.

  9. a says:

    The lady next to me announced she had Diabetes…

    I hate to jump over this, too, because this situation is obviously unfortunate, but they literally tell you at check-in, at security, and at the gate to PACK YOUR MEDICATION IN YOUR CARRY-ONS. What if her baggage got lost? She could be without it for days with an out-of-state prescription.
    And correct me if I’m wrong, but if a Diabetic is shaking and asking for food, what they really need is sugar, which is in any soda on any American Airlines.
    If they’re shaking because they need insulin, then they gave themselves too much sugar earlier, and they should steer clear of food, for fear that it would contain sugar.
    Let me know if I’m wrong on this. I definitely sympathize with these people.

  10. “On the other hand, the lady should have been responsible for her own welfare and brought appropriate foods in case of a holding pattern, diversion, or whatever.”

    Insulin requires refrigeration, which means you have to carry it in a cooler with a cold pack, and the airlines are not real friendly to cold packs being carried on right now. (Frankly I’ve heard of people having trouble with the insulin and syringes, which isn’t supposed to happen, but does.)

    It also may mean the insulin and its peripherals IS your carry-on, since they’re stricter on carryons now. AND they’re being stricter about carrying on food and beverages. She could have run into any one of a number of problems with carrying on adequate medication and food to control her blood sugar, many of which could be attributed to ill-informed TSA or airline employees who don’t know or care that medication is exempted from the TSA ban-of-the-month rather than real policies, but it still leaves her without her medication.

  11. KesCaesar says:

    I wish this would work.
    I really do.
    I’d sign it immediately if I thought it would.

  12. synergy says:

    Just to correct McGee, if she took the food that meant she knew her sugar was low. You don’t take insulin when your sugar is low. Also, I don’t know if this is allowed onto planes since I haven’t flown in a year and a half, but diabetics prone towards low sugar are urged to carry a small tube that contains this sugary paste stuff or these sugar tablet things. Should they get shaky, they can squirt or pop some of this stuff and feel better.

  13. Legodude522 says:

    Ha! I know the guy that does some of the blog. I sent him a link to Consumerist a couple weeks ago. Dunno if there is any relation though.

  14. tekkierich says:

    After 3 hours on the tarmac and no end in sight my policy would be this.
    Let me off this plane in the next 15 minutes or I open the emergency exit and let myself out.
    If I am detained further and not allowed to open the emergency door I will make an incident so that the flight will not take off.

    Four magic words should be all that is needed. “I have a bomb”.

    I hope I would not me taken to gitmo for this. However I think I would have a plane full of people on my side, and some lawyers interested in taking my case for the notoriety if no other reason. Civil disobedience is a fine tradition in our country. If a few of these long term tarmac holds ended this way I am sure we would see them less frequently.

    A passengers bill of rights of course sounds much more reasonable. For the people caught up in this who’s final destination was Dallas, they could have rented a car from San Antonio and been home in less than 10 hours. holding people prisoner like this is not just.

  15. bones says:

    What you need here is not a “law” or a “panel” but common sense. If you sit in a tin can for an hour, you turn around and go back to a gate. Period. End of story. The airline works to resschedule or refund the passengers. Period. It happens to enough people enough times, they form a class action case against the airline for lost time/wages/travel and bankrupt the airline. New airline now more appropriately attuned to consumer attitudes(anger) takes it’s place. EVery passenger on that plane needs to talk with a class action attorney and sue, that’s the way to prevent it from happening again.

  16. Anonymously says:

    Tekkierich: That’s a bold move. The government may just silence all of the other passengers and hold you indefinitely without charging you with a crime or giving you access to a lawyer. yay patriot act.

  17. Pelagius says:

    In other news, American Airlines is the only legacy carrier that has not succumbed to bankruptcy. 9-hour tarmac waits on the other hand…

  18. MeOhMy says:

    Better than “I have a bomb!” How about “HE has a bomb!” Then you have plausible deniability. “I thought I saw somebody playing with what looked like a fuse. Sorry, I must have been mistaken, but thanks for finally letting us off the plane, you incompetent morons.”

    They need to make this bill of rights as absurd as possible so that if it ever becomes accepted, the “compromise” will be something other than “If the airline mistreats you, you are entitled to a free 1 oz. bag of snack mix on your next flight that crosses the Black Sea.”

    Oh, and there should be civil penalties written explicitly into law for violating the passengers’ rights. And that has to be payable in CASH. No vouchers. You don’t get to screw your passengers and then force them into flying with you again in order to make good on the compensation. You let me sit on the tarmac for more than 3 hours (frankly I think it should be one hour), you owe each passenger say $500 CASH per hour. If you can’t get them in the sky, get them back in the terminal or pay the price.

  19. officedrone4 says:

    Not that I’m for the airlines, but I think this would be very hard to implement.

    The last time I was delayed, it was because of the airport, not the airline.

    So we sat on the tarmac for 2 hours, plus another hour in line on the runway.

    I was pissed, especially since the flight was to DC and I could’ve walked there faster from New York, but because the airline wasn’t at fault there was nothing I could do.

    The airline, or the passengers could sue the airport in this case, but that might be counterproductive. I’m not sure where airports get their money but I’m guessing it’s from taxpayers.

    Same with airline money. The government bailed most of the airlines out after 9/11 to enable them to continue flying even though most are in Chapter 11. Suing the airline isn’t really going to help anyone very much, because that money is likely coming more from the taxpaying public, than it is coming from the airline “revenues”.

  20. tjrchicago says:

    I don’t know that I would have gone quite as far as tekkierich suggests, but if my wife was next to me and in obvious medical distress, I would immediately open one of the emergency exits. Arrest me, whatever, but that is simply not an acceptable situation in my book.

  21. Youthier says:

    The woman how got on the plane without food when she has diabetes reminds me of that episode of Airline where the family freaked out because they thought the luggage handlers threw their son’s dialysis machine on the plane. When asked why they didn’t carry on this lifesaving piece of mandatory machinery, the father said, “Well, it’s pretty heavy.”

  22. formergr says:

    I don’t know if I’d open the emergency exit necessarily in case of medical distress, but I would definitely call 911, and if that didn’t work then start dialing around to local news affiliates and the major cable networks. I have a feeling that would work pretty well…

    Also, the sugar goo stuff for diabetics is only a temporary fix I believe. I had a roommate with pretty bad type 1 diabetes, and I myself get low blood sugar on my own, and for both of us just having some sugar or a soda will make you stop shaking, but you need a meal or snack that has protein and complex carbs in it (i.t. whole wheat or something) to really be better for the next few hours.

  23. tekkierich, you do any of those things and you’re looking at a minimum $10,000.00 fine and possible time in a Federal Penitentiary – not to mention a mandatory nomination for “dumbest thing ever done by anyone, ever”.

    Joking about this stuff is NOT cool, whether on the airplane or off.

    Once you walk onto an airplane, you are subject to Federal rules and regulations. These are folks who do not mess around with jokes, threats, tantrums, or silly-ass comments of any sort.

    (Try opening a door on the ground at your peril – without an armed emergency slide, you’ll break both legs getting out and put everyone else on the airplane in detention along with yourself for hours or days.)

  24. LeopardSeal says:

    @Eyebrows McGee

    Insulin only needs to be refrigerated if it is being stored. Insulin for daily use is usually fine out of the cooler as long as it doesn’t get too hot. Any Type 1 diabetic would have to be forcibly seperated from their diabetic supplies /meter /glucose tablets to get on a plane without them. As well, most Diabetics always travel with some high sugar/starch food, just in case their blood sugars get low.

    It sounds like this particular lady may have been a Type 2 diabetic, meaning that she probably takes pills to control her blood sugar rather than insulin. Many Type 2’s also tend to be more reactive rather then proactive with moderating their sugar levels, which seems to be the case here. Though I still don’t understand why she would travel without food and her medication though.

  25. tekkierich says:

    Honestly I do not think it is a laughing matter in anyway. I also do not think that any person, company or government agency has the right to hold you like that. 10 hours! This is totally unreasonable. It is not for reasons of safety that you are held on the plane, is the dollars. If a plane actually disembarks at this diverted airport then it is the airlines responsibility to make alternate arraignments, hotel and meal vouchers and what not. These are normal costs of doing business and an airline should expect them.
    10 hours sitting on a plane ON THE GROUND is criminal. Obviously, one would not jump out the emergency hatch, that is why they have inflatable slides and what not. If the slide is not armed I would be astonished, I wonder what the FAA or better NTSB would say about that situation. Fire marshals et al usually are not to fond of emergency exits not working properly.

    Anyway, I do not think I am an unreasonable jerk, although you may digress. I am pointing out however, that there is more then one way to disembark a plane. Preferably there is the gate available, maybe some stairs definitely a slide. If all that fails there is the option to be “escorted out” of the plane. This is all I am pointing out.

  26. MeOhMy says:

    “Though I still don’t understand why she would travel without food and her medication though.”

    Maybe she didn’t figure on being trapped on the plane for 9 hours…? When’s the last time anyone got on a plane fully anticipating not just to sit on the tarmac for awhile, but to sit on the tarmac for half a day?

  27. BenThair says:

    The delay had nothing to do with weather, instrument trouble or bomb threat.
    Airports are concerned with moving as many people as possible.
    They only have so any gates for any given airline/carrier, and multiple carriers.
    They can only schedule so many planes to take off and land per hour.
    Keep in mind there are rush hours or peek travel time for air travel.
    Actually/Physically; If they can only take off and land 60 planes per hour.
    And they have 120 Gates unloading and loading passenger$, 1 plane per hour (not unreasonable)
    They are scheduling double the capacity of the runways. OVER BOOKING
    Which means they are intentionally scheduling 60 planes to be loaded and parked on the tarmac until rush hour ends, extending your stay at that given airport by 2 + hours.
    If they allow the passengers to wait in the airport lounge, they tie up that gate with an empty airplane, while a full plan that just landed is parked, lessoning the amount of passenger$ that can be shuffled through their airport.
    Check Newark’s history of on time departure, it’s very short because you’re scheduled to be loaded and parked. Airplanes in the air have priority because they carry only enough fuel to get to their destination, less fuel less weight. They can fill their cargo hulls with more paid freight$$, at the passengers expense.
    It’s all about greed, runway time, gate time, and moving the largest amount of passenger$ onto airplane
    This isn’t an issue that should be blog, it’s an issue that should be investigating and prosecuted.
    The problem is that there’s a great deal of money$$ be paid$$ to your elected officials$$$$$ to keep this bill on the shelf.

  28. suzieque33 says:

    I just heard about the “new record” today where Jet Blue kept passengers on the tarmac for ELEVEN hours! That is absolutely inhumane, as was the experience of the passengers on American. Lou Dobbs said tonight that an airline should be FORCED to return after TWO hours….I totally agree.

    Are you going to present a petition to your Senators and Representatives? I would gladly sign it. I have been on the tarmac for 1 1/2 hrs and could barely stand it! Money is no excuse…it is inhumane.

  29. CaptainBob says:

    Beware what you ask for….you might just get it! Also known as the law of unintended consequences. Instead of being stuck on a plane for a few hours with the chance and probability you will get to your destination eventually, the airlines will leave you sitting in the terminal with 100,000 other stranded travelers so they can comply with these rules. End result is little chance of making it to your goal in any kind of reasonable time (read days). These weather delay fiascos are a pain, but few and far between. They make good headlines, but rarely happen. Look at what happened in the snow storm in Denver when passengers were stuck in the terminal for days…..the restaurants and stores didn’t have enough food for that kind of emergency, and they never will.

    These people wanting to force returns to the gate and ridiculous compensation for delays are going to force delays in the DAYS for everyone!