PIRG-backed reforms designed to guarantee that passengers stranded in planes sitting on runways are not treated like cattle have been passed by the House and Senate and are expected to be signed by the president as part of FAA reauthorization (New York Times story). The reforms are largely based on the work of former stranded passenger Kate Hanni and her flyersrights.org campaign for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (Kate’s statement).For several years, the reforms have been championed by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). Former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), now President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, has also been a strong champion who implemented tough rules while we waited for Congress. The law largely codifies work that DOT has done and add some new provisions, such as protection for musical instruments (see webvideo “United Breaks Guitars“).
Although our request for a statutory 3-hour limit for tarmac delays was not included in the law, which instead bans “excessive delays,” the U.S. Department of Transportation had already imposed 3-hour domestic and 4-hour international tarmac delay limits.
DOT has issued some very good rules that largely anticipated the legislation, although the format of this DOT consumer fact sheet could use work.
These two press releases on DOT airline passenger rights are much easier to follow than the fact sheet, although the fact sheet ultimately has more detail.
— This DOT release from April explains the major new tarmac limits, bumping penalty increases and other air passenger rules implemented under Secretary Ray LaHood’s watch.
— Here is a DOT press release from August that explains the new rights further, including the new fee disclosure rules that took effect a few weeks ago.
Some of the airlines, especially Spirit (Reuters story) have been whining incessantly about laHood’s rule on full disclosure of fees. We are ignoring them. You should, too.
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, PIRG
Ed oversees U.S. PIRG’s federal consumer program, helping to lead national efforts to improve consumer credit reporting laws, identity theft protections, product safety regulations and more. Ed is co-founder and continuing leader of the coalition, Americans For Financial Reform, which fought for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, including as its centerpiece the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was awarded the Consumer Federation of America's Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award in 2006, Privacy International's Brandeis Award in 2003, and numerous annual "Top Lobbyist" awards from The Hill and other outlets. Ed lives in Virginia, and on weekends he enjoys biking with friends on the many local bicycle trails.