Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. today announced a new law, which he sponsored, that establishes a first-in-the-nation Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights to protect passengers who are stranded on delayed planes at airports in New York State.
Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick, Long Island), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, said, "New York is home to some of the world’s busiest airports, and in adopting this new law, we have taken the lead in protecting the rights of passengers. This first- in-the-nation law will ensure that stranded passengers are treated with respect by the airlines that serve our airports and are not held hostage on delayed flights without basic amenities."
The law requires all airlines at New York airports to provide snacks and water, fresh air and power, and working restrooms for passengers delayed on planes for more than three hours.
The law also creates an Office of Airline Consumer Advocate within the New York State Consumer Protection Board to provide the public with a New York State-based consumer advocate to help coordinate with appropriate airline industry officials, federal agencies and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the event an incident occurs.
The Airline Consumer Advocate will refer any violations of the new law to the New York State Attorney General’s Office, who can seek a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per passenger per violation by an airline.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, thousands of passengers on several JetBlue Airways flights were stranded aboard planes at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, some for up to 10 hours, during a snow and ice storm. On March 17th, a day-long ice storm forced other airlines to strand hundreds more passengers on jets at JFK for hours. Passengers onboard these planes complained of no food or water, overflowing toilets and no ventilation. JetBlue since announced its own Passengers’ Bill of Rights that provides monetary compensation following such incidents, but does not require amenities be given to stranded passengers.
Under the new law, all air carriers are 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.
Specifically, the New York State Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights requires air carriers serving passengers in the State of New York to provide the following whenever passengers are delayed onboard a plane for more than three hours before takeoff:
> Electric generation service to provide fresh air and lights;
> Waste removal service for holding tanks for on-board restrooms; and
> Drinking water, snacks and other refreshments.
While federal law places restrictions on what individual states can do when it comes to legislation relating to air travel, federal courts have held that the provision of "amenities" for air travelers is one area that states can legitimately address.
In May, Senator Fuschillo conducted a hearing at JFK International Airport which examined the problem of delayed flights and stranded passengers. Among those who testified were a couple who had been stuck on a plane at JFK on Valentine’s Day for ten and a half hours, the first six of which they were given no food or water and were unable to use the restroom.
The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2008.
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