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Airline Passenger Bill of Rights on the Comeback?

Frustrated airline customers take note: An Airline Passenger Bill of Rights has been passed—in Canada. That’s right, the Canadian government approved legislation that provides provisions for passengers on severely delayed planes. For flights delayed four hours, people will receive a meal voucher. For flights delayed eight hours, customers receive vouchers for a hotel. But perhaps the most appealing aspect of the bill is that passengers now have the right to disembark a delayed plane after 90 minutes onboard.

Sounds great for people flying out of or within Canada, but what does it mean for folks here in the States? Two things. First, the bill sets a pretty reasonable precedent for any potential U.S. bill of rights. The provisions are fair, neither overly harsh on the airlines nor stingy toward passengers (I’m especially fond of the 90-minute rule, because being stuck on a plane is really the worst part of having your flight delayed), meaning a bill like this should represent an agreeable compromise between airlines and consumer advocacy groups. The bill vaguely shields airlines from responsibility for weather-related delays, which is something a U.S. bill should look to improve on.

Second, the Canadian bill comes at a time when many in Congress seem receptive to passing similar legislation. According to Kiplinger’s, an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights is “a good bet” to be part of Congress’ October agenda. Kiplinger’s cites the impending election as the primary motivation for doing so, particularly among representatives looking to retain their seats. The specifics of any bill remain to be seen, though Kiplinger’s suggests a milder version of previously attempted (and defeated) bills is likely. Let’s hope that’s not the case, and any airline passenger bill of rights passed in the U.S. uses our northern neighbor’s version as a model.

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