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Passenger Rights Legislation - Will It Ever Come?

The battle over passenger rights rages on

Sep 09, 2009

The fight to protect passengers stranded on flights for more than three hours rages on. The Business Travel Coalition, a consumer group that represents about 300 corporate travel departments, joined with in advocating passenger rights legislation.

The groups are supporting a congressional law that would allow passengers to disembark from planes delayed at least three hours on airport tarmacs, assuming it safe to do so. Previously, the coalition opposed the proposed law, but a survey found that more than 80 percent of travel industry professionals and business travelers support the legislation.

"BTC testified 4 times since 1999 in opposition to Congressional intervention, and opposed the New York State Passenger Bill of Rights that would have led to disparate passenger rights standards in every state. So-called federal preemption was emplaced long ago to prevent a patchwork of oversight regulations," stated BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell, in a prepared statement. "However, airlines can no longer have it both ways; consumers continue to be harmed and are without protections at the state level. As such, the only remaining remedy is a single passenger-rights standard emplaced by a Congress that needs to do for passengers what the airlines have refused to do."

The current legislation is sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) following a recent surge in flight delays that left travelers stranded on planes overnight. According to USAToday, "more than 200,000 domestic passengers have been stuck on more than 3,000 planes for three hours or more waiting to take off or taxi to a gate since January 2007."

The Air Transport Association, which represents major U.S. airlines, opposes the legislation saying airlines have "contingency plans" in place to protect travelers and deal with tarmac delays, without any government intervention.

The battle over passenger rights rages on
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