The State Senate Committee on Consumer Protection conducted a public hearing today at JFK International Airport to examine recent incidents of airline passengers being trapped on planes at New York airports for several hours and what can be done to improve conditions for passengers stranded on planes. Hearing discussion also focused on state legislation sponsored by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., Chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee, which would provide passengers trapped on planes with certain amenities to make their wait more tolerable.
Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick, Long Island) said, "New York has some of the busiest airports in the country and we’re all familiar with the horrific stories of stranded passengers that took place this past winter. The committee conducted this hearing to gain a better understanding of how and why these incidents occur and what can be done to protect the rights of airline passengers. I have also proposed state legislation that would provide basic customer standards that all airlines should follow along with important consumer protections for air passengers."
Among those offering testimony at the hearing were, Alfred Graser, JFK Airport General Manager; Kate Hanni, Founder and Spokeswoman for the Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights; Passengers who were stranded on JetBlue flights this past February, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association; and the JFK International Airport Chamber of Commerce. Several air carriers were also invited to provide testimony but declined.
Under Senator Fuschillo’s "New York State Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights" legislation (S. 5050b), airlines at New York airports would be required to provide snacks and water, fresh air and power, and working rest rooms to passengers on any plane that is on the tarmac for more than three hours.
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.
The measure would also create the 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 and contact person who can help to coordinate with the appropriate airline industry officials, federal agencies and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the event an incident occurs.
In addition, all air carriers would be required to clearly and conspicuously post consumer complaint information for air travel service problems at airline service desks and at various other areas throughout the airport.
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