Law against airline passenger abuse takes effect Jan. 1


(TVLW) – The courts don’t ordinarily keep the holidays in mind when deciding when to rule, but an Albany judge’s decision backing airline passenger rights fits in well with holiday traveling.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn ruled last week that a landmark state law requiring airlines to provide basic services to passengers stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours should stand. That means the law likely will go into effect as scheduled on Jan. 1 and will cover millions of passengers coming through New York airports.

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The legislation, written after some passengers were forced to stay on board their planes for more than 10 hours during a series of JFK International delays last winter, says that airlines have to provide fresh air, food and water to people after three hours of delay.

An association representing most of the major airlines argued that the federal government is the sole regulator of airlines, not individual states. The judge wisely said the issue is public safety, not airline regulation, and states have a basic duty in that regard.

It’s troubling that airlines would contest any requirement to provide fundamental amenities to people — including the elderly and children — who paid handsomely for their tickets.

If passengers are stuck on a plane for three hours, airlines should be doing all they can to help them cope.

The law simply establishes what any responsible business should do voluntarily.