Airline passengers may get extra benefits

February 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A Bay Area assemblyman unveiled an airline passenger bill of rights. The idea is that if you get stuck on a parked airplane longer than three hours, you would get basic amenities.

Airlines are fighting these bills, saying the states have no jurisdiction. It is part of a strategy , lead by San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno, to have states pass these bills of rights, creating a momentum for the federal government to step up and pass a bill that would protect all airline passengers.

Assemblyman Leno's bill would require airlines to provide food, water, lights, air and useable bathrooms after three hours of waiting on the tarmac. It is based on a New York state law, which pretty much does the same thing. Leno hopes lots of other states join in.

"The airline industry should soon realize that rather than fighting congress, they should be begging congress to take action to have one federal law that will provide a passengers bill of rights," says Leno.

The states efforts at a bill of rights got a boost from what happened at JFK Airport in New York one year ago. 10 Jet Blue planes sat on the tarmac in an ice storm for up to ten hours. Pictures from stranded passengers captured all the chaos.

Joining Assemblyman Leno was Kate Hanni, the founder of the Coalition for An Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights. She had a similar wait on an aircraft in Dallas.

"These people were in diabetic shock. We had paraplegics. We had women making diapers out of t-shirts. After 13 hours, I got angry," says Hanni.

A Jet Blue spokesperson told us there's a better way to protect airline passengers.

"The marketplace will force superior customer service. We are the best authority on how to care for our customers."

In fact, six days after the JFK disaster last year, Jet Blue passed a passengers bill of rights, which includes all the guarantees in Leno's bill, and much more, including money for stranded passengers, whether they're on a jet, or waiting in the terminal.

SFO has its own bill of rights for passengers. If they're stuck on a jet for more than an hour, the pilot can call and request a gate and the jet can go to a remote part of the airport and have passengers picked up by bus. Leno hopes this will drive airlines to support one uniform federal bill of rights.


Load Comments