In the wake of continued horror stories of passengers being stranded on delayed airplanes, Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) and Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) announced passage of a first-in-the-nation Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights to provide passengers stranded on airplanes at New York airports with basic amenities to make their wait more tolerable. The bill (S.5050C/A.8406B) also creates a new Airline Consumer Advocate Office to help passengers report air travel service problems.
The Senate passed the legislation on Tuesday and the Assembly is expected to approve it later today.
Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, said, "New York is home to some of the world’s busiest airports, and we should take the lead on adopting measures that will make air travel as comfortable as possible for passengers. This legislation will help protect passengers on delayed flights and ensure that they are not held hostage without amenities, but rather are treated with respect."
"Today New York becomes the first state to stand up for passengers at the most delayed airports ever seen in our country," said Assemblyman Gianaris. "The least we can do to assist passengers while they wait is ensure that the experience is not inhumane."
Under the legislation, all airlines at New York airports would be required to provide snacks and water, fresh air and power, and working restrooms for passengers on planes that leave the gate and sit on the tarmac for more than three hours.
The measure would also create 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 would refer any violations of the new law to the New York State Attorney General’s Office, who could 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.
Just yesterday, news reports were full of more stranded passenger horror stories that took place at LaGuardia, JFK and other airports throughout the nation.
The New York State Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights would require 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 three hours:
> 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.
In addition, all air carriers would be 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.
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.
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