Yesterday, New York State did what the federal government has failed to do for air travelers: Put an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights into effect. The bill requires airlines to give food, water, fresh air, and bathroom access to passengers who have been trapped on grounded planes for more than three hours. Failure to comply with this rule can result in a fine of $1,000 per passenger. Last year, during a winter ice storm, passengers on JetBlue flights departing from New York’s JFK where stranded on the runway for up to 11 hours, prompting outcry for a Passenger Bill of Rights.
New York’s Passenger Bill of Rights was opposed by the airlines, some of which sued to try to stop it, and has been criticized by industry experts for not being tough enough. The bill does apply to only those passengers trapped in airlines on New York state airport runways and it falls short of providing comprehensive passenger protections that would cover other aspects of airline travel. However, the law is a lot better than nothing, and hopefully a state taking aviation matters into its own hands will spur slow-moving federal lawmakers into action. At any rate, it will certainly be interesting to see how well the airlines follow New York’s law this winter.