ATA to challenge NY's passenger bill of rights

The Air Transport Association (ATA), the US airline industry trade group, is going to try to block New York state’s airline passenger Bill of Rights. Scheduled to take effect January 1, it would require airlines to provide adequate food, water, and access to waste removal if a New York-based flight has to wait more than three hours for take-off. According to the law, the state can fine airlines up to $1000 per passenger.

Airlines leaving passengers stranded on planes for hours is nothing new; winter weather at JFK airport this past February resulted in thousands of stuck travelers on planes for hours (as well as jetBlue’s much-publicized ‘Feburary meltdown’). Local politicians supported the move. "Airlines are not doing their job, and the federal government has dropped the ball," said New York senator Charles Fuschillo. "I hope other states follow." And New York state, with such airports as JFK and LaGuardia, is especially prone to long delays.

The ATA, however, maintains that long waits on the plane, like what happened back in Feburary, are a rare occurrence (not to mention unavoidable), and that if other state legislatures pass laws that change from state to state, it could lead to confusion among airlines. They also state that only federal authorities, not state legislatures, can regulate the airlines.

This move by the ATA isn’t surprising. It’s true that some events, like winter storms, are certainly out of the airlines’ control. But maybe airlines should take measures to ensure that passengers who are stranded on board planes have access to these critical “amenities”, because it only takes one ‘fiasco’ involving passengers stuck on a plane to result in some pretty negative PR.