Passengers Held In Another Nightmare On The Tarmac

There was another outrageous case over the weekend of passengers being held on a commercial aircraft on the ground, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Forty-seven passengers were kept aboard a small, regional jet for a total of nine hours, seven on the ground. The ExpressJet flight, being operated for Continental Airlines, took off from Houston for Minneapolis and diverted to Rochester, Minn., because of weather.

And there the passengers sat, overnight, sealed inside what one passenger called a “sardine can,” with crying babies and smelly toilets, being told they could not leave the aircraft. Why? Continental wouldn’t talk about it and ExpressJet cited a litany of excuses about policy, security and the airport being closed.

The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights Act of 2009, now sort of sitting around in the House and the Senate, would require airlines to let passengers disembark after three hours on the ground and would require airports to have plans to accommodate passengers in these cases. The airlines and airports have had a chance to fix this as Congress has dithered, but they are clearly unable or unwilling to do it. 

The excuses have long ago worn thin. We need a law, with real penalties for these outrageous infringements of basic civil rights.

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