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Not Gonna Take it Anymore?

Steve Hendrix

JetBlue apologized this morning for keeping hundreds of passengers stuck on planes for up to 11 hours during the Valentine's Day ice storm at New York's JFK, according to the AP. One arriving plane from Fort Myers landed at 10 a.m. but sat, within sight of its gate, until nearly 7 p.m. Read the whole grisly report here. The good news: Everyone who was delayed on board an aircraft for more than three hours receives a full refund and a free round-trip ticket.

That's only the latest of a flurry of tarmac meltdowns that have brought about new howls of outrage from beleaguered fliers. Rember the Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights? That was an effort a few years ago to turn howls of passenger frustration into actual legislation. (It didn't actually use these words, but the overall tone was "Torturing your passengers is bad and you'll get in trouble if you do it.")

The airlines derailed that effort by promising to do better on their own, but after some high-profile strandings in recent months, the PBOR is back. According to a McClatchy-Tribune wire story, a group has formed to push it, California Democrat Mike Thompson has agreed to introduce legislation and, since the effort was mentioned on the Drudge Report, a couple thousand people have signed an on-line petition.

The Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights' Website is

Here are the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights proposals:

All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:

Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.

Notify passengers within 10 minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.

procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.

Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than three hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities and access to medical attention.

Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.

Publish and update monthly on the company's public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.

Compensate "bumped" passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.

The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers - that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.

Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.

Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.

Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.

By Steve Hendrix |  February 15, 2007; 11:57 AM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , Steve Hendrix
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Sorry for the off-topic post, but I have a question. I purchased airline tickets four months ago for the end of this month. In the interim, I had emergency eye surgery that left a gas bubble in my eye, and me unable to fly as long as the bubble is around.

The bubble is supposed to be gone soon, although I can still see it in my eye. I'm supposed to fly at the end of Feb. Can I buy a travel insurance policy that would cut my losses if I'm unable to make my flight for medical reasons? Do travel insurance policies cover stuff like this?

Posted by: Rita | February 15, 2007 1:33 PM

"Compensate "bumped" passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price."
So the next 9/11 incident, where all flights are grounded, results in all airlines in the US refunding 150% of all tickets sold for that days flights? In addition to all other costs? What about weather delays or cancellations? Some thought needed here.

"Ensure ... if baggage is lost ... provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents."
How does the airline know the value of the contents? Will the passenger be required to state that value (and prove it if necessary) before the flight? What if the bag is lost as a result of something TSA did?

"Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners."
So what do we do if an international partner refuses to co-operate? Cut them off? What if their host country retaliates?

Posted by: I see problems here... | February 15, 2007 2:00 PM

I was outraged when I read that story about JetBlue. There's really no excuse for that. NONE. 9 hours on the tarmac sounds like imprisonment to me. I'm glad they got their money back, but how many of the passengers will use that free ticket after such an experience with the airline?

Posted by: mstroff | February 15, 2007 6:25 PM

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