New York Passenger Rights Law Challenged

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.


2 thoughts on “New York Passenger Rights Law Challenged

  1. Mel

    If each state is able to define their own laws regarding passenger rights then that will be require the airlines to keep an even larger legal staff to potentially cover 50 laws instead of 1. It would be a complex legal nightmare that would end up costing passengers more for tickets. This is an instance where federal laws already take precedence for a good reason.

  2. Jamie

    How’s this for an idea: as states pass laws, airlines can just start going out of their way to meet the most stringent standards of any state. That way, they won’t have to care if they’re being too nice for the bare minimum required under once state’s law, and they can just focus on some basic common sense like not leaving airplanes overflowing with raw sewage sitting on the tarmac for eight hours.
    There has never been a single right granted to anyone in history that hasn’t meant inconvenience or higher cost to those who now have to change their way of behaving to take into account the rule of law. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have laws, and something as simple as passenger rights is not like states having different standards for how radios operate. It’s a simple matter to keep up with the latest laws passed in fifty states and adopt standards that meet or exceed the most stringent standards that exist at any given time.


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