Local News

Thompson gives passenger rights bill another try

By February 15, 2011

Rep. Mike Thompson announced on Tuesday that he is once again trying to get his airline passenger “bill of rights” off the ground.

The bill requires that airlines provide food, water, temperature controls, ventilation and working toilets during excessive delays. Passengers would have the option to deplane after three or more hours on the ground.

“Air carriers have a responsibility to provide basic services and accommodations to their passengers,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release. “Yet we continue to hear stories from Americans who have been stranded on planes without adequate food, water, ventilation or working toilets.

“Despite reassurances from the airlines, these kinds of horror stories aren’t going away.”

Thompson re-introduced the bill four years and a day after an infamous Valentine’s Day incident in which passengers on 10 planes were stuck for 11 hours at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Many of the elements of his bill were made part of the Department of Transportation policy last April. The policy exempted foreign carriers and allowed U.S.-based airlines to write their own rules for international flights.

The mandates in Thompson’s bill would cover all airlines, however.

One of Thompson ‘s constituents, Napa resident Kate Hanni, started the Coalition for Airline Passengers ‘ Bill of Rights, after bad weather left her American Airlines flight sitting on the tarmac in Austin, Texas, for eight hours one day in December 2006.

She told CNN on Tuesday that she believed Thompson’s bill is still necessary, even though the Department of Transportation’s policy has reduced passenger complaints.

Last year, 3,500 flights sat on the tarmac for more than two hours before takeoff, said Thompson, who is introducing his bill for the third time.

Industry groups continue to maintain the law is unnecessary.

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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