Outrageous Airline Delays Spur Action By State Senate

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

March 19, 2007

State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, today announced that he will be introducing legislation designed to empower air travel consumers throughout New York State.

The Senator’s action follows several incidents that occurred at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday and Saturday, involving passengers who were trapped for hours on planes stuck idling on the tarmac. These incidents closely resemble last month’s notorious JetBlue incident, when passengers were held on board a commercial flight at JFK for 10 hours without food, water, fresh air, or the ability to use the rest room.

"Enough is enough," Senator Fuschillo said. "This latest episode just reinforces the fact that changes need to be made to protect airline consumers from this type of treatment. New York is home to some of the world’s busiest airports, and we should take the lead in adopting commonsense measures that empower consumers and help prevent outrageous incidents like these from occurring."

"The air travel industry should not be allowed to mistreat, ignore or take any passenger for granted, and that’s why these new consumer protection measures are so important," the Senator added.

According to today’s New York Times, New York Post, Newsday and AP news reports, passengers were stuck on board a Royal Air Maroc flight at JFK for more than 14 hours this weekend. Passengers on a SwissAir flight to Zurich were trapped onboard for eight hours, a Virgin Atlantic flight to London left 9 1/2 hours late, and a Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver was finally canceled yesterday after more than nine hours of waiting at JFK. Passengers were also stuck for seven hours at JFK on board a Korea-bound Asiana Airline Flight.

In response to last month’s incident, JetBlue issued apologies and announced a new Passengers Bill of Rights. However, while this Passenger Bill of Rights would provide monetary compensation following such an incident, it does not provide passengers with assurances that basic necessities such as food and water will be available during such an incident.

The legislation to be advanced by Senator Fuschillo would do the following:

· Require all air carriers serving passengers in the State of New York to provide the following whenever passengers have left the gate and are delayed for more than 3 hours on the tarmac:

> A generator truck will be provided in order to provide temporary power for fresh air and lights;

> A waste truck will be provided in order to service the holding tanks for on-board rest rooms; and

> A service truck will be provided in order to ensure that water and snacks are made available to passengers.

· Establish a new "Airline Consumer Ombudsman Office" within the New York State Consumer Protection Board. This office will help provide the public with a New York State-based consumer advocate and contact person who can help to coordinate with the appropriate airline industry officials, federal agencies and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey representatives in the event an incident occurs.

· Require that all air carriers clearly and conspicuously post consumer complaint information for air travel service problems at all service desks and various areas throughout the airport. This information will allow consumers to immediately contact the new Airline Consumer Ombudsman Office, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, in the event an incident occurs.

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.

CLICK HERE to read the Newsday editorial of support.

CLICK HERE to read the Newsday article.