Airline Bill Of Rights Upheld By Federal Court

Late yesterday the U.S. District Court in Albany dismissed a lawsuit challenging New York’s recently enacted Airline Bill of Rights. The law which goes into effect on January 1st provides that airlines operating in New York can be fined up to $1,000 a passenger if they do not supply water, fresh air, power and working restrooms during lengthy delays on the tarmac.

The suit was brought by the Air Transport Association, whose members carry more than 90 percent of U.S. passenger and cargo traffic. The Association believed that commercial aviation is best regulated by the federal government and not 50 individual states.

In dismissing the suit, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn concluded that the provisions of the Airline Bill of Rights constitute a health and safety issue and not airline “services” that can be regulated only by federal authorities. He stated, “Fresh air, water, sanitation and food are necessities in the extreme situation in which this act applies. It threatens the public health to contain people on grounded airplanes for hours without these necessities, particularly, though not exclusively, if passengers include diabetics, young children, the sick or the frail.”

The New York law is the first of its kind in the country, and yesterday’s ruling raises the question of whether other states will enact similar laws. In a statement, the Air Transport Association said that the court had misinterpreted the law and that it was considering an appeal.

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