Monday, 25 January 2021

Passenger Bill of Rights language included in FAA authorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. On Thursday, the House Transportation Committee released the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill, including language from Rep. Mike Thompson's (D-CA) "Passengers Bill of Rights." This is the first time that passenger rights have been included in both the House and the Senate versions of the FAA Authorization.


"This is good news for American travelers," said Thompson. "Right now, passengers are at the mercy of the airlines. When delays occur, passengers have absolutely no assurance that they'll be provided with basic necessities, like food, drinking water and a reasonable temperature. This bill is an initial step toward ensuring passengers are treated fairly and decently when flying."


The House FAA Authorization bill requires that airlines develop emergency contingency plans, including how each aircraft will "provide food, water, restroom facilities, cabin ventilation and access to medical treatment" during delays. It also requires that airlines make a plan for accessing facilities and gates during an emergency or extended delays so passengers can deplane.


The House Transportation Committee conducted a mark-up of the bill today. The Senate version of the FAA Authorization has already been finalized, but has not been voted on by the full Senate.


In March, Thompson introduced comprehensive Airline Passenger Bill of Rights legislation, which requires airlines provide passengers with basic necessities during delays and deplane passengers after a four-hour delay (or three hours if departure is unlikely to occur before four hours).


Thompson's bill also calls on the Department of Transportation and the FAA to review airport policies and infrastructure to help ensure airlines can meet these new standards.


"While the FAA Authorization language is a good start, we need concrete standards for the treatment of passengers, including a limit to the amount of time people are held on the tarmac,” added Thompson. "The airlines have promised Congress multiple times that they'd stop stranding passengers, but nothing has changed. We want to keep our airlines in business, but there must be a minimum standard for treatment of passengers."


“The coalition is encouraged that now both the House and Senate FAA bills include the concept of passenger rights,” said Kate Hanni, executive director of the Coalition for an Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights. "We intend to work with our champions, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe and Rep. Mike Thompson, through the floor and conference process to make sure that the final bill guarantees stranded passengers enforceable rights including a clear and explicit right to deplane when left on the tarmac. While we are excited that passenger rights is further down the runway than ever before in Congress, the bills aren't ready for takeoff."


The FAA Authorization also requires the Department of Transportation to provide monthly statistics on diverted flights and the amount of time passengers are held on an aircraft during diversions. This is the first time the government would be collecting this information, and Thompson applauded the committee for including it.


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