The airline industry is challenging a New York State law guaranteeing the rights of airline passengers when planes are delayed on the ground in that state. The Air Transport Association wants an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect Jan. 1.
The argument is that the right to regulate airline service is reserved, under federal law, to the federal government. The ATA declared in a press release Tuesday that "ATA’s sole reason for filing this lawsuit was to preserve the principle that commercial aviation is best regulated by one source – the federal government – and not 50 individual states."
The courts will decide whether that’s a sound legal argument. But we can judge for ourselves whether it’s the "sole reason" for the lawsuit.
While I’d like to believe that our corporate lobbies spend their time and money defending abstract legal principles, I have to believe there might be one other motive. I think maybe the airlines don’t want to be fined for failing to provide food, water and functioning toilets to passengers stuck on grounded aircraft at JFK and LaGuardia.
I guess we’ll find out when Congress finds the guts to pass a bill at least as strong as the one in New York, if it ever does. In fact, Congress should pass a more stringent law, one that sets a time limit for holding passengers aboard grounded flights.
Then we’ll see if the airline industry will accept a federal law on the grounds that the legal principles of regulatory jurisdiction have been satisfied — or whether all the industry really wants is the freedom to keep treating its customers like cargo.