Weak Passengers Bill Of Rights Moves Through Congress

The House and Senate are competing to see who can pass the weakest version of the Passengers Bill of Rights. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed one version in May, allowing airlines to deny passengers the right to deplane by filing contingency plans with the government. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed another version last week denying passengers any right to deplane. We compare the race to the bottom, after the jump.

The more expansive Senate version, S. 1300, contains the following provision:
(1) PROVISION OF FOOD AND WATER- In any case in which departure of a flight of an air carrier is substantially delayed, such air carrier shall provide–
(A) adequate food and potable water to passengers on such flight during such delay; and
(B) adequate restroom facilities to passengers on such flight during such delay.
(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.

As covered earlier, the Senate version still allows airlines to keep passengers on planes by filing a plan with the Secretary of Transportation. Of course, the Senate version looks like a godsend when compared to H.R. 2881, the House version:

Sec. 42301. Emergency contingency plans
(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, 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; and
(B) share facilities and make gates available at the airport in an emergency.

What happens next? Quite a bit. Both the House and Senate versions have been reported favorably from committee, which means that both version still need to go the floors of their respective chambers where the proposals will be open to amendments. Hopefully one version will emerge that clearly enshrines the right of passengers to deplane within three hours.

Fliers’ bill of rights moves ahead [USA Today]
S. 1300 – Aviation Investment and Modernization Act of 2007 [THOMAS]
H.R. 2881 – FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007 [THOMAS]
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