Wednesday, March 26, 2008

U.S. court rejects airline passengers rights law

Today the U.S. Court rejected the NY airline passenger rights law which among other things, gave airline passengers the same rights afforded to animals at the zoo with access to food, water and bathrooms when stuck on a plane for more then 7 hours.

I think to celebrate, we should take the members of the U.S. Court and put them on a Jet Blue plane parked on the tarmac at JFK for 7 hours and tell the old farts to hold it and see if they dont reconsider their opinion. Personally, in the meantime, if you are stuck on a plane for more then 4 hours with no air, water, food, bathroom its up to you to stage a mutiny and just pop the doors open and leave. What is the worst that is going to happen, they are going to remove you from the plane...problem solved

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A federal court Tuesday overturned the first state law in the country requiring airlines to provide food, water and working toilets to passengers stuck in planes for hours on the ground, saying only the federal government has authority to enact such a law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals said the New York state law is pre-empted by the federal Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which prohibits states from regulating airline prices, routes or service.

Although the judges did not define "service" as used in the act, they concluded that requiring airlines to provide food, water, electricity and restrooms during delays pertains to service.

New York had argued that amenities such as food and water fall outside the legal definition of airline service. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is reviewing the ruling. To continue its court fight, New York would have to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tuesday's ruling was a victory for airlines, whose trade group, the Air Transport Association, had sued to block the law, which took effect Jan. 1. But it was a major setback for consumer activists and lawmakers seeking legal protections for passengers stranded on planes for hours by flight delays. At least nine other states have proposed similar legislation, including Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and New Jersey, according to the ruling.

Consumer lawyer Paul Hudson, who helped defend the law, said the ruling means "airline passengers on the ground now have fewer rights to humane or safe treatment than prisoners and even animals."

In the absence of federal passenger protections, New York's Legislature overwhelmingly approved the passenger Bill of Rights last year after a Valentine's Day ice storm stranded thousands of passengers on jets up to 10 hours at New York John F. Kennedy Airport. The law empowered the state to fine airlines $1,000 a passenger if they did not provide for essential needs during long delays.

One of the law's sponsors, Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, a New York City Democrat, said the ruling "promotes corporate interests over public interests." He vowed not to give up.

The ATA said the ruling is a vindication for the industry, which argued that a patchwork of laws by states would hurt airlines. The group says long tarmac delays such as those at Kennedy are rare and that airlines are working to improve service when they occur.

Both Congress and the Department of Transportation have proposed passenger protections, but none as strong as the New York law. A DOT task force is studying how airlines and airports should handle long ground delays.

A record 80,937 flights in 2007 waited more than an hour before takeoff, up 21% from 2006.

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