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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  1. WannaGetMatzoBalled says:

    I read this as a Bill of Rights for “Weak Passengers”– nice mental image, I imagined people hunched over, holding on to the seats as they slowly made their way down the aisle of the plane, with legally-bound-to-be-understanding flight attendants a few feet behind them, giving them room to hobble..

  2. FLConsumer says:

    I like the very vague wording in these. “substantially delayed” in the airlines’ mind probably is a 2 month timeframe rather than the 2 hrs most passengers would say is substantial.

    I have a better one — how ’bout not boarding the aircraft until you’re sure it can leave? Yeah, it’ll cause back-up at the gates, but then you can make it ATC/AP’s problem rather than appearing like it’s yours.

  3. Allura says:

    At this point, I’ve decided I will not fly with anyone who cannot provide me with at least a snack containing some protein every 4 hours (I’m willing to purchase), INCLUDING all on the ground time, as well as a minimum of, say, 4oz of water per hour (I’d prefer more). They don’t need to provide it, but I don’t need to fly on the carrier if they do not. The water is especially frustrating given the TSA regs. Food isn’t as important, as I tend to carry my own, but given some of the ridiculous delays lately, I would have concerns about not carrying enough.

    And yes, I do have health issues. I do what I can to mitigate them myself, but some of the stories I’ve heard lately make me doubt my ability to plan accordingly.

  4. JustAGuy2 says:

    A mandatory deplane timing seems like a lousy idea to me. What if the plane’s been sitting there for 2 hours and 59 minutes, and the pilot has just been told he’ll be taking off in five minutes. One guy on the plane, however, is going to miss his connection, so he doesn’t care, so he demands the plane return to the gate, so the plane loses its place in line, and hundreds of others are inconvenienced.

  5. TechnoDestructo says:


    Stuff like that would just be more incentive for airports to actually get their scheduling systems in order.

    Hell, I think it might be a good idea for long ground delays like this to result in penalties paid to the airlines by the airports. That would be a disincentive applied in the right place. It would also make it easier for the airlines to stomach compensating the passengers.

  6. nucleotide says:

    The elitist a$$holes in congress can make a bill that treats us like cattle only if they fly on commercial domestic airlines, in coach preferably. These jerks fly in private jets usually sponsored by corporate interests. I sick of being told to eat cake. Let’s break out the guillotine!

  7. lpranal says:

    de plane! de plane!

    I love how the language requires safe deplaning. Several airline CEOs are likely throwing up there arms in rage at the lost chance to use their ingenious “coach-a-pult” that ejects passengers onto the tarmac.

  8. FLConsumer says:

    Dumb question… what do airlines do in situations like this if a passenger collapses & passes out on the plane while it’s stuck on the tarmac?

  9. tasselhoff76 says:

    I was recently stuck on the ground, while we waited in a long line of other planes coming and going and it was terrible. Mostly because I desperately needed to empty my bladder but I was confined to my seat until we were airborne. I’m sorry for the folks that think mandatory deplaning is a terrible idea, but having me trapped on a plane before an already long flight is a far worse idea, imho.