Last Wednesday, a US Judge rejected airlines efforts to overturn a New York state law that says airlines have to provide, “fresh air and lights, waste removal services and adequate food and drinking water” if passengers are stuck on the tarmac for over three hours. [ATA vs CUOMO (PDF)]


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  1. STrRedWolf says:

    The deal is, the airlines thought Congress overrode such laws in federal law. They haven’t — the expressly specified competition and service only, not health and safety as the Passenger’s Bill of Rights (PBR) is set out to be.

    Let’s see how it fares in the real world, and how many states take it up. Once the major hubs are covered under similar new laws, and works well, Congress just needs to “upgrade” it.

  2. Amelie says:

    Here’s a news article for those who don’t want to wade thru 8 pages of a pdf.file:

    “ALBANY-The U.S. Court of the Northern District of New York has ruled against the airline industry and upheld New York’s law protecting air travelers in the state.

    The decision, issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn in Albany, dismissed the Air Transport Association of America, Inc.’s lawsuit that attempted to block New York’s new Passenger Bill of Rights law. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2008 and assures basic services for passengers confined on grounded airliners for extended periods of time.

    “Judge Kahn’s decision today is a victory for airline passengers in New York and potentially across the country,” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said. “Prior to the passage of the law, travelers could and have been held captive on board grounded airliners for intolerable periods of time without such basic amenities as fresh water, clean and usable bathrooms, and fresh air. The judge’s decision recognizes that deregulation did not give the airlines a free hand to treat travelers so callously, and it reaffirms states’ rights to protect consumers when federal officials fail to do so.”

    New York is the first state with a Passenger Bill of Rights law. Under the law, whenever airline passengers have boarded an aircraft and are delayed more than three hours prior to takeoff, the carrier shall ensure that passengers are provided as needed with:

    -Adequate snacks, drinking water and other refreshments.

    -Electric generation service to provide fresh air and lights.

    -Waste removal service of holding tanks for on-board restrooms.

    In addition, all air carriers will be required to clearly and conspicuously post or provide forms including an explanation of rights, consumer complaint information, and contact numbers and addresses for air travel service problems. Under the law, the Attorney General can sue an airline for violating the law and seek civil penalties of up to $1,000 per passenger.

    Cuomo continued, “My office fully intends to hold accountable any airline which violates the Passenger Bill of Rights. Passengers will no longer be trapped without the protection of the law and at the mercy of the airlines. We believe New York’s law will serve as a model for the nation.”

  3. Amelie says:

    @STrRedWolf: Congress didn’t overwrite rules regarding to public health and safety, which are the jurisdiction of the state.

  4. Amelie says:

    @STrRedWolf: Sorry, for misreading you. You did state that.

  5. Starfury says:

    It’s a pretty sorry state of the airline industry when laws have to be passed telling them how to behave and treat their customers.

    I wonder how long California will take to copy this.

  6. Trauma_Hound says:

    Isn’t it against the constitution to hold you against your will anyways?

  7. Amelie says:

    @Trauma_Hound: I’m sure it’s against the law to hold you against your will, but I’m also sure the airlines have made it so that the minute you voluntarily get on their plane, they can keep you there, if they deem it necessary.”

  8. BillyShears says:

    I too find it sad that it took a law to get this done and not, say, common decency on the part of the airlines.

    I wonder if the collective airline CEOs would change their tune if THEY were stuck out on the runway waiting hours on end for take-off or an open gate.

  9. timmus says:

    The fact that airlines are trying to overturn a law guaranteeing sanitation and drinking water for the passengers speaks volumes about the attitude of airlines. I distinctly remember July 1982 as being the very last time in my life I sat in coach and was actually treated with service and professionalism.

  10. CurbRunner says:

    Alleged terrorists prisoners held in cells at Guantanamo regularly receive better treatment than the U.S. airlines provide to passengers held against their will in planes on tarmacs at U.S. airports for dubiously contrived reasons.

    Historically, one of the fundamental earmarks of a civilized societies on this planet is to provide an infrastructure that meets the basic sanitation/health needs of its people, i.e., water, food and waste removal/treatment.

    That U.S. Airlines would resist in providing these fundamentals of life to people held against their will, in their aircraft, demonstrates the highest level of arrogant disregard for human values within our society.
    By doing so they have shown themselves to be no better than those who ran the Gulag Archipelago in the Soviet Union.

  11. goodkitty says:

    “Cuomo continued, ‘…Passengers will no longer be trapped without the protection of the law and at the mercy of the airlines…'”

    So… you’ll only be trapped for hours without the protection of law BEFORE you board, while within the jurisdiction of the TSA’s “security” areas. But once you’re on the plane (and reassembling your shoes and carry-ons), New York has your back.

  12. bilsemon says:

    Goodkitty, at least when you’re held in the boarding areas, you don’t have toilet overflow issues. Try being ON an airplane w/no working toilet sometime, you may lose the sarcasm. I wish the other states would get our back too.

  13. banmojo says:

    as a rule I don’t like NY, yet once again they pioneer a relevant timely NECESSARY and humane law (they also pioneered laws protecting medical residents from 120 hour work weeks, although that was more to prevent families of iatrogenically killed patients from sueing the hospitals than to keep residents from working more than 80 hours/week which puts their salaries close to minimum wage btw). it IS sad the airlines have been fighting this, and I hope they all burn in airline hell for their collective evilness. The level in hell for TSA is one floor above, so I’ve heard.

  14. jamar0303 says:

    Geez- from personal experience airlines like Singapore and Thai would never do something like this. There needs to be more competition in the US airline market; Virgin America is a start.