Airline Passengers Bill Of Rights Signed Into (New York) Law!

New York Governor Elliot Spitzer signed the first passengers bill of rights into law earlier this week. While the law only cover travelers at New York airports, the state is a major international travel hub, home to Kennedy and LaGuardia, two of the busiest airports in the country. The Air Transportation Association lobbied hard against the measure, saying: “No airline wants to subject passengers to long delays on tarmacs, but customer service can’t be legislated.” New York responded by legislating the following customer service measures:

Starting in 2008, food, water, fresh air, power, and working restrooms must be made available to any passenger stranded for more than three hours. Passengers who wish to complain about their service will be directed to the brand new Office of Airline Consumer Advocate within the Consumer Protection Board. Airlines that ignore the new passengers bill of rights may incur the wrath of the Attorney General, who can punish violators with civil penalties of up to $1,000 per passenger.

The national passengers bill of rights remains stuck on the tarmac in committee. With Congress about to adjourn for the Summer District Work Period, don’t expect its passage anytime soon.

N.Y. is first state to OK a ‘fliers’ bill of rights’ [USA Today]
(Photo: nffcnnr)


Edit Your Comment

  1. iamgibson says:

    It’s about time Somebody does somthing.

  2. Amelie says:

    Hopefully, New Jersey will take care of that other “New York” airport – Newark.

  3. homerjay says:

    “customer service can’t be legislated.”

    Well! Apparently it can!

  4. Cowboys_fan says:

    This issue really shouldn’t need a “Bill of Rights”. If I owned an airline, I think I would have adopted similiar policy the FIRST time this ever happened. If airlines think they can solve the problem, they’re wrong because they should have long ago. Seriously, is food, water, air, and a bathroom too much to ask that we need a law!? I’m not against this law, its the fact we need one in the first place thats ridiculous.

  5. redknight says:

    I think I’ll go ahead as pass on the food part of this law… and probably the bathroom part too. How about legislation giving me the right not to be imprisoned on an aircraft?

  6. castlecraver says:

    I’m all for this, don’t get me wrong. But wouldn’t it make more sense
    to fix the massive ground traffic and flight scheduling problems that
    cause so many of the delays?

  7. SOhp101 says:

    @Cowboys_fan: This issue shouldn’t need one but it does. Airlines have been too slow in implementing effective procedures in providing basic necessities to passengers and the only way to motivate them to do it quickly is by threatening them with tons of fees.

    Let’s see.. what other groups of people have also neglected to provide access to basic needs/rights until they were motivated by the law? Hospitals, landlords/apartment buildings, restaurants, just to name a few…

  8. Bourque77 says:

    @castlecraver: Yes but in the meantime make passengers as comfortable as possible.Its a lot easier to provide food, water, air, and restrooms than to fix overloaded airports.

  9. BillyShears says:

    I didn’t realize “We get to decide how long we keep people seated in a giant, metal tube strapped to engines built by the lowest bidder before we either let them go, eat, drink or give them clue one as to what’s going on” was “customer service.”

  10. Hawk07 says:

    And in the end, the customers will still get screwed. If the airlines violate the TOS and get fined, that means higher fares.

  11. North of 49 says:

    This makes one wonder that perhaps the no-fly-list isn’t so much “anti-terrorism” but rather a cash cow for the airlines. And that they will fight back because once you’re in their seats, there’s pretty much nothing you can do.

  12. DadCooks says:

    Why does everyone get so excite about these so called “bill of rights”! The is a “bill” that allow the airlines to continue to abuse us!

    Look at what it says, you can be DEPRIVED of air, light, water, and restrooms for three hours!

    If it was a REAL “Bill of Rights” you could not be deprived of these things for one second.

    Legitimate delays I can understand and tolerate IF I DO NOT have to sit in a hot, stuffy, dark, stinking box with no water!

  13. bohemian says:

    The limit should have been an hour, not three. Three hours without a bathroom. This whole issue is crazy. They think locking people in a plane for four hours is no big deal. If people try to raise hell they can end up in trouble with all the federal anti terrorism laws. Pretty much anytime someone gets out of line on a plane they start treating it as a threat.

    The real solution is to finally implement nationwide rapid rail. That way there are less people flying unless it is international or cross continent.

  14. JustAGuy2 says:


    Outside of a few corridors (SD-SF, Chicago-Milwaukee, Boston-DC), the country is just too big, and the routes just too lightly travelled, for rapid rail to make sense.

    Also, these bills of “rights” are kind of silly. Setting a hard limit like this just doesn’t make any sense – so, when the plane is 5 minutes from taking off, at the 2:59 mark, it should head back to the gate? It’s not like the airlines _like_ putting people on the planes and then having them sit. It’s that, particularly given weather problems, the situation can change from moment to moment, and it takes too long to board a plane to have everybody scattered in the terminal.

  15. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @JustAGuy2: “…when the plane is 5 minutes from taking off…”
    I’ve never heard that one before while sitting on a taxiway.
    Weather problems? More made up airline shit. If there is a “weather problem” that is going to prevent the plane from taking off, the problem didn’t just materialize out of thin air.
    If they know (and they DO) that the plane isn’t going to be taking off quickly, the plane should
    1) Not be full of passengers
    2) Still be sitting at the gate
    How about a show of hands for those who would rather hear that the plane will be delayed in taking off while sitting IN THE FUCKING TERMINAL.

    Oh wait, this is Consumerist. It’s our fault for expecting CUSTOMER SERVICE. Thank you for pointing that out Mr. Airline SHILL.

  16. jamar0303 says:

    I’m glad this has happened to me only once before with United. It sucked rather badly that I had to spend a night in Chicago (mainly because they gave a voucher for only one standard room when there were 4 people in my group so the second room had to come out of pocket)because the Nashville-Chicago flight was delayed, causing me to miss the only Chicago-Shanghai flight of the day.

    …And there was that incident while traveling around China with Shanghai Airlines, but that’s to be expected of a Chinese budget airline.

    This is a good thing, but it should have been taken further. 3 hours is too long. I’d much rather take any Asian carrier instead of United- they seem to be much better at handling things in general, from comfort to unexpected circumstances.

  17. humphrmi says:

    Elliot Spitzer learned a long time ago when he was AG that flexing the power of the State of New York was as good, if not better than flexing the power of the United States.

  18. Bunsbert_Montcroff says:

    I hope this bill *does not* include a provision for allowing passengers to deplane after x hours. That provision would cause even further delays for other travelers on that flight who would be held up while, conceivably, a single traveler wishes to deplane.

    Food, water, and use of the lavatory. YES!

    Right of a single passenger to deplane and hold up everyone else on the flight? NO!

  19. jamar0303 says:

    @Bunsbert_Montcroff: How about a provision that allows passengers to deplane only within a certain period? For example, if the flight is going to be delayed for more than 3 hours, then yes, go ahead and deplane. Page everyone over the airport PA when it’s time to reboard. I do *not* want to be stuck on a plane any longer than I have to even if I was in Business/First class.

  20. Bunsbert_Montcroff says:

    @jamar0303: I don’t want to be stuck on a plane any longer than I have to either. I think your proposal might work if pilots, airlines, and ATC know for certain how long a flight is going to be delayed. But it’s almost always an estimate–never a sure thing.

    Not to mention the fact that if a plane has to return from the taxiway back to the gate, it will delay other planes that were supposed to use that gate, which causes further delays.

    Back at the gate the plane lets one passenger off, and has to search for his luggage because he’s checked a bag. After that’s done, the pilots need clearance to exit the ramp, then taxi back to the end of the line to take off, and delay my travel even longer! Passing a bill that stipulates a passenger must be allowed to deplane will create even further delays.

  21. JustAGuy2 says:


    Well, here’s your real dilemma. The real choice, not the choice between the EVIL, EVIL airlines, and the HAPPY, HAPPY place that it all should be.

    1. Board everybody, and then (sometimes), people get stuck sitting.

    2. Don’t board everybody, and have (on average) longer waits to actually take off, since a weather window comes and goes before the passengers can be rounded up and boarded.

    Unless you think that airlines actually LIKE keeping people on planes (burning more fuel and consuming flight crew hours), rather than in the terminal.

    I’m not an airline shill, I just fly enough to know that the system will always have problems so long as we aren’t willing to (a) put enough money into upgrading ATC, and (b) put enough money into expanding airports to add runways and hence peak capacity.

  22. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Weather windows?
    Flight xxx from Pittsburgh (PIT) to Charlotte (CLT) (see I have been on one or two flights myself):
    CLT is completely covered in fog and has been for a few hours.
    CLT is on IFR, so planes are not coming in at their regular healthy pace.
    Do we
    1) Wait for the weather at CLT to start clearing before we board the plane at PIT?
    2) Put the passengers on board the plane at PIT, leave the gate (on time!), then taxi the full plane out to one of the holding areas on the ground and SHUT OFF THE ENGINES (wasting fuel?), pissing off the passengers, but maintaining that ONTIME status?
    Bonus points if you don’t tell the passengers DICK for 15-20 minutes after stopping.

    But this shit doesn’t happen that often, right.

    Flight xxx from Detroit (DTW) to Cleveland (CLE). Even better, it’s a commuter flight so you get to ride the bus to the plane. Then get in a line with a lot of other planes and sit on a taxiway for 1 1/2 hours because of what we are told after an hour is a ‘weather delay’…We are told that Cleveland center ATC is not letting anything take off from Detroit going south or east. After a long and “fun” day at the Detroit airport, a couple bus rides and such, the second flight from DTW to CLE leaves on time, and takes off as soon as we taxi. When we arrive in Cleveland and ask what happened, there are no answers and the official story is that it was a NWA thing, and Cleveland center ATC knew nothing about it.
    But these are the exceptions, we are asked to believe.
    It is true that I have been on more punctual flights than delayed, but it only takes one “Aw shit” to erase 25 “Attaboys”

  23. so, when the plane is 5 minutes from taking off, at the 2:59 mark, it should head back to the gate

    At that point, the jet should have full power via the generators providing light and air conditioning; if the airplane is pushed back from the gate, then catering can begin within 30 minutes, and bathroom service is, at most, 30 minutes away.

  24. JustAGuy2 says:


    FYI, the important stat is on-time arrival, not on-time departure, so pulling out to a holding area doesn’t help the numbers.

  25. I think we should all get comfortable paying an extra $100/ticket.

    At that rate, we could expect good service, instead of 1994 service with 2007 fuel prices.

    While I don’t feel consumers should put up with current service levels, and I think airline executives are overpaid shitheads, it’s important to remember that on the whole, ticket prices don’t seem to have gone up more than about 10% from 1995, despite the escalating price of fuel.

    While it is in the airlines’ advantage to play down this disparity and keep ticket prices low, we (consumers) suffer from the aforementioned long waits and craptastic service; with more cost padding, airline operations folks would be able to lower load factors and possibly ensure that more people get where they’re trying to go.

    Just my thoughts…we’re not exactly entitled to low prices, but to get good service, you’ve got to pay – and we’re only paying 1995 prices in most cases.

  26. jamar0303 says:

    @Bunsbert_Montcroff: Oh- my past experiences with delays were with aircraft that were parked near the gate with a vehicle that takes you to the aircraft from the gate. So when a flight was delayed (Shanghai Airlines- doesn’t operate to America and thank all that is good it doesn’t; they codeshare with United for that) people would take the bus back to the gate; when it was time to take off the airport paged the passengers about 10 minutes ahead of the estimate and they got on and left (usually things went smoothly- only happened once to me because I only took Shanghai Airlines twice- not counting the United codeshare to Chicago). I see how that wouldn’t work with aircraft that park at the gate, and if people were disorganized (like me).

    Again, I’ve only seen it once, and it went off smoothly, so I didn’t consider the points of failure. Sorry.

  27. nffcnnr says:

    Well this certainly is good news. Hopefully more states will enact similar measures. Oh, and thanks for using my pic!

  28. Geekybiker says:

    I just wish that they wouldnt pull back from the gate when they KNOW its going to be a long wait to take off. Trouble is that as soon as they push back, its considered an on-time departure, even if they know you’ll spend 4hrs on the tarmac.