DOT Orders Airlines To Free Passengers

What kind of democracy is it where citizens can’t rely on the representatives they elected to look out for them, to the point where an appointed bureaucracy has to step in to protect them?

I guess it’s the kind we’re living in because the U.S. Department of Transportation has just enacted a three-hour limit for airlines to keep passengers on grounded aircraft.

The new rules will require the airlines to have working toilets, to provide medical attention as needed and to provide food and drinking water within two hours of a plane being stranded, as the Washington Post and CNN report. Passengers must be allowed off the aircraft after three hours unless safety or security would be compromised or if air traffic control directs otherwise.

Sound familiar? This is exactly what Congress has repeatedly failed to enact in the form of  an air passenger bill of rights.

Last month the DOT  signaled its intention to step in where Congress feared to tread when it fined three airlines for their roles in the egregious stranding of passengers overnight in Rochester, Minn.

In that case, the DOT said the airlines had “violated the law that prohibits unfair and deceptive practices in air transportation.” With the new rules, which will go into effect in about four months, it will be even easier to call airlines out when they act as if holding passengers hostage were an acceptable business practice.

So hurray for the DOT and its secretary, Ray LaHood. At least somebody has some guts.


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