Make us your home page

Bill of rights for air travelers still stalled at the gate

Next month marks the second anniversary of the Valentine's Day massacre for JetBlue Airways, which prompted demands for Uncle Sam to take airlines to task for mistreating travelers.

Remember? JetBlue blundered into an operational meltdown during a blizzard at its John F. Kennedy International hub. Customers' lives were turned upside down.

More than 1,000 passengers on nine flights were stranded for hours on the tarmac. Travelers on one plane headed for Aruba were stuck for nearly 11 hours.

The debacle gave momentum to advocates of a federal passenger bill of rights. The effort stalled in Congress, largely because of pushback from the airlines.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, this month reintroduced a Senate version. Supporters hope it has a better chance under a more Democratic Congress and a new president. The proposal would impose these mandates:

• Airlines let passengers safely get off the plane if they have been on the ground with the door closed for more than three hours. Pilots could overrule if they believe the plane will take off or get to the terminal within 30 minutes.

• Airlines provide adequate food, water, restrooms, ventilation and a comfortable cabin temperature if a plane is stuck on the ground.

• Airlines and airports submit contingency plans for handling long tarmac delays to the Department of Transportation or face fines.

• The DOT also would set up a consumer complaint hotline.

The Air Transport Association, a trade group for major carriers, says the number of tarmac delays is going down. The group also contends the three-hour rule would give airlines incentive to cancel flights instead of trying to get out ahead of bad weather.

Travel columnist Terry Trippler argues no one even knows how many flights incur extended tarmac delays. The Transportation Department began publishing numbers last year, then stopped when a consumer group questioned data provided by airlines.

A reader posting on a Wall Street Journal blog summed up the dilemma neatly: "Legislate (airline) service and the airlines will become risk-averse and probably cancel. Don't legislate it and they will continue to argue, 'Let us self-regulate' while doing very little. A real Hobson's choice. Consumer loses either way."

Game on.

Bill of rights for air travelers still stalled at the gate 01/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 5:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community for the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
  2. Claim: State pressured CFO, used secret recordings to shut down Universal Health Care


    ST. PETERSBURG — The founder of St. Petersburg's Universal Health Care alleges that Florida regulators conspired with the company's chief financial officer to drive the once high-flying Medicare insurer out of business.

    Federal agents raided the headquarters of Universal Health Care in 2013, ordering employees to leave the building. The insolvent St. Petersburg Medicare insurer was then in the process of being liquidated by state regulators.
[DIRK SHADD   |   Times file photo]

  3. Aramis Ayala defends stance against death penalty: 'I did what I believe was proper'

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala on Wednesday defended her "absolute discretion" to never seek the death penalty in murder cases, as skeptical justices of the Florida Supreme Court bombarded her lawyer with sharp questions.

    Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala, far right, said she was "very well pleased" with her lawyer's case. "I violated no laws." [STEVE BOUSQUET | Times]
  4. Tampa Chamber of Commerce offers boost to black and Hispanic-owned businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — There's a disconnect in Hillsborough County's minority business community.

    Gaston Meredith of Gaston's Culinary Services listens to LaKendria Robinson, Director of Minority Business Accelerator & Economic Inclusion during an information session at the Robert W. Saunders Library in Tampa on Tuesday.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Wesley Chapel, Greater Pasco chambers of commerce merge


    LAND O'LAKES — Two chambers of commerce representing more than 850 business members from west Pasco to Wesley Chapel and New Tampa are merging into a single organization.

    Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Hope Allen will lead the combined chambers of commerce announced Wednesday. The yet-to-be-named chamber will represent more than 850 businesses that currenlty are members of the Greater Pasco and Greater Wesley Chapel chambers.
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]