Bill will keep passengers from being held indefinitely on planes, ensure passengers’ needs are met, and help airlines coordinate with government agencies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Thursday, March 01, 2007

WASHINGTON — Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, legislation that would require all airlines to provide a minimum level of customer service.

“We must find a way for airlines to conduct business without holding passengers on planes for hours on end,” said Thompson. “Passengers should always be treated fairly and decently when traveling, even when unforeseen complications arise. I believe this bill will help both passengers and the airlines know what to expect when problems occur.”

Thompson’s bill clearly outlines the standards of service airlines must incorporate in their contracts of carriage, which are legally binding agreements between passengers and airlines.

These standards include allowing passengers to deplane after three hours on the tarmac, while providing pilots with flexibility if takeoff is imminent, and providing passengers with adequate food, safe drinking water, clean and sanitary facilities, air ventilation and a reasonable temperature while waiting on an aircraft. Airlines must also keep passengers fully informed about the timing and cause of flight delays and cancellations.

The bill also calls on the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to review airport policies and infrastructure to help ensure airlines can meet these new standards.

“Whether it’s for business or pleasure, Americans rely on the airlines, and I do not want to create a law that puts them out of business,” said Thompson. “I recognize that there is a lot of work that Congress needs to do to improve airport infrastructure and upgrade the air traffic control system. But we need assurance that passengers will not be unnecessarily put in uncomfortable and unsafe conditions. I think this Passenger Bill of Rights is the best way to account for the needs of the passengers and the airlines.”


Gives passengers the right to deplane after any ground delay of three hours or more, with two exceptions.

  • Allow two 30-minute exceptions if the pilot reasonably determines that a flight will depart not later than 30 minutes after the delay, or
  • If the pilot reasonably determines that permitting a passenger to deplane would jeopardize passenger safety or security.

Requires airlines to provide passengers with adequate food, safe drinking water, sanitary facilities, air ventilation, and a reasonable temperature while waiting on an aircraft.

Requires airlines to frequently update passengers at the airport and aboard aircraft on the cause and timing of delays.

Requires airlines to disclose information on chronically delayed or cancelled flights at the time of ticket purchase.

Requires airlines to make every effort to return checked bags to passengers within 24 hours.

Requires airlines to draft and prominently display a Passenger Bill of Rights.

Requires airlines to make information on the lowest fares readily available to the traveling public.

Calls on the FAA to work with airlines to allow long-delayed flights to offload passengers who choose to disembark – without losing that flight’s position in the departure sequence.

Calls on DOT to:

  • Review airline and airport emergency contingency plans to make sure that the plans will effectively address weather emergencies in a coordinated manner.
  • Convene a meeting of air carriers, airport representatives and the FAA to discuss procedures to better respond to weather emergencies resulting in lengthy flight delays.
  • Study the ability of air carriers to provide essential needs of passengers, including food and water in cases where the flight is diverted to an unscheduled airport due to an emergency or weather situation.
  • Requires airlines to include this bill in their contract of carriage.


7 comments on “Thompson Introduces Bill to Give Airline Passengers Legal Rights

  • This is an idea whose time has not only come but is long overdue. Over the years I have witnessed mistreatment of passengers (not only “able” passengers but disabled and primarily elderly passengers)at the boarding gate and on the airplane. I have not spoken up during these times only because I am simply confused and conflicted: some of the employees involved have been so hostile and intimidating I feared speaking up would result in a trip to jail or at the very least, being denied boarding access, and since I am either traveling with a disabled older brother or two or three kids my concern was primarally being separated from them or causing them extreme stress. This worry has mushroomed into the fear of becoming claustrophbic or irrational on an airplane, to the point where I didn’t visit my Mother (or my kids their Grandmother) the last two years of her life. My Mother hadn’t flown in almost seven years; she was afraid her age related issues would either not be accomadated or completely ignored. That situation still causes me and my family considerable pain.
    Air travel is not a “new wonder” nor do I take it for granted, but it is definately time travelers are no longer taken for granted and their pocketbooks taken for the ride.
    Sonia Harvey & Family

  • Now is the time to ensure that the Airline Passenges’ Bill of Rights is supported fully during its journey through Congress.

    Because what the airlines have going for themselves here, and they know it,
    is that Homeland Security now gives them carte blanch to treat passengers’ concerns with total disregard under the new anti-terrorist laws. With this legal coverage in place, there is no incentive for them to do anything different from their current practices regarding the treatment of their customers.

    Any passenger that even mildly protests their captivity inside of a grounded aircraft, can be heavily prosecuted for “interfering with” or “intimidating” flight attendants (under Federal Law: US Code § 46504). A passenger can get from 20 years to life in prison for making an airline employee feel bad…versus the 11 hours of being held prisoner on a commercial airliner. It doesn’t matter if the toilets are overflowing, if your kid becomes sick and needs medical treatment, someone needs food and water or is out of their heart medicine. Even just visually complaining by looking at a flight attendant the “wrong way” (intimidation), under the law, they can now presume that you are attempting to interfere with a flight crew and you can automatically be considered a terrorist suspect.

    You will be arrested and then who knows where you’ll end up, maybe in Guantanamo with no habeas corpus rights or maybe you’ll just be disappeared.

    So just remember, when you’re aboard a plane, just sit down, shut up and take it…because you’re not only just another passenger…now you’re also just another hostage

  • About time … go girl!! Current laws/rules are inadequate at best.

    Members of our Congress didn’t know about these things … LOL … obviously they do not fly commercial airlines. And IF they do they have to be the most non-observant bunch of folks which exist.

    How about having the airline executives fly without the benefit of airline ID and go through the security, delays and hassles the rest of us are subjected to. Want to bet things would get fixed relatively quickly?

    By the way, after several nightmare trips I have decided life is too short to continue to put up with these hassles. I no longer fly.

  • AA Does it AGAIN!. Last week I was flying through their hub in Dallas. They CLAIM there was lightening over the airport I NEVER SAW ANY, OR ANY RAIN. They claim they had to send all the workers inside for their safety. WHAT ABOUT THE COMFORT AND SAFETY OF THE PEOPLE WHO PAY THEIR WAGES?. All in all we were held hostage for 1hr 15 min 20 feet short of the gate. Once we got inside I found my connecting flight cancelled. THEY REFUSED TO PAY FOR MY HOTEL. I wanted my bag back AGAIN THEY REFUSED. I feel air rage is justified. I was so pissed I could have ripped that gate agents head off, and I dont think any jury in the world would ever convict me

  • You are not alone. AA is doing this all the time blaming the weather, when it’s actually a high traffic situation etc.

    Stay with the cause we will get some legislation enacted to protect you.


  • This Bill Of Rights does not go nearly far enough. Holding me on the ground in an airplane for 1 hour is perhaps reasonable. Things happen. Holding me against my will for 3 hours, in a seat built for the Spanish Inquisition, and then allowing the pilot to extend that time at their discretion is essetiually forced inprisonment and should be a criminal act. Not everyone deals with stress the same way. Sooner or later someone is going to get hurt. Let’s fix this problem before it happens.

  • Responding to xster:

    I agree.

    Flight attendants, cockpit crew members, and airline ground staff have got to stop using “9-11” as a reason to justify every form of bad service and bad attitudes.

    If flight attendants are hired with starting pay equal to what one would earn at a McDonald’s the level of civility and psychological adjustment is, obviously, going to reflect that kind of pay. Under these circumstances, there will be an ample supply of flight attendants who deal with their weak personalities by bullying passengers, and filing false police reports, for no good reason.

    Since the airlines are not going to address this problem, legislation, and/or, regulation is needed. However, this issue should be considered separate from a Bill of Rights. Like the Clinton Administration’s attempt at universal health care, loading too many things into a bill will render it confusing and doom it to defeat.

    One easy step toward a “cure” would be to establish a government data base. Every flight attendant, cockpit crew member, or airline ground worker who lodges a complaint against a passenger would have their name recorded in this data base. The record would follow the “complainer” if they leave one airline to work for another. Under this system the worst offenders could be exposed. Likewise, those who lodge legitimate complaints would, presumably, have fewer entries in this data base.

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