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Senator Says Passenger Rights Bill Will Happen

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) yesterday said she thinks there is enough support in Congress to get passenger rights legislations on the books. The Senator, who co-sponsored a passenger bill of rights, said recent incidents (namely the overnight delay of an ExpressJet flight in Rochester, Minnesota), have drummed up public interest and made the proposed legislation popular in Congress. “Every day they (airlines) prove to us how much we need this legislation,” Boxer said.

A form of legislation that mandates three-hour tarmac delay limits and requires airlines to provide food and water during long delays has already passed the House. These provisions are included in the FAA Reauthorization Act currently before the Senate.

Dan Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transportation Association (ATA), which represents the country’s biggest airlines, reinforced his organization’s concerns about any kind of legislation. “I think of the unaccompanied child who will be stranded in a strange city because a few people want to get off the plane,” Castelveter said, referring to the three-hour limit on tarmac delays. He also said occasions where airlines failed to provide food or water during lengthy delays were rare missteps, and that such delays occur on a small percentage of flights.

Former American CEO Bob Crandall suggested starting with a four-hour maximum and phasing in a three-hour limit by 2011.

Most, if not all proposed bills allow the pilot to overrule the time limit if he or she reasonably expects to take off within a half hour.

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