Senator Fuschillo Calls On Governor To Sign First In The Nation Airline Passengers' Bill Of Rights

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

July 25, 2007

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) today urged Governor Spitzer to sign into law legislation that he sponsored that would establish a first-in-the-nation Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights to provide passengers stranded on airplanes at New York airports with certain amenities to make their wait more tolerable. The proposed law would also create a new Airline Consumer Advocate Office to help passengers report air travel service problems.

Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, said, "Airline passengers must not be held hostage on delayed flights without food and water, fresh air and clean restrooms. I urge the Governor to sign this legislation into law which would ensure that passengers are treated with respect and provided with basic amenities they deserve."

The legislation was passed by both houses of the Legislature. The Governor has until Wednesday, August 1st at midnight to consider the bill for law.

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 delayed on planes 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.

Specifically, 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 are delayed aboard 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.

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.

In May, Senator Fuschillo conducted a hearing at JFK International Airport which examined the problem of delayed flights and stranded passengers.