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Airline passengers deserve a bill of rights: Schumer

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The senator's push for an airline passengers bill of rights follows on the heels of similar legislation proposed last year by state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). Gianaris' bill was signed into law but overturned by a federal appeals court.Schumer is pushing for the implementation of a bill of rights that would force airlines to give amenities to passengers on excessively delayed flights. He said the Federal Aviation Administration should take better care of its passengers until it figures out how to reduce delays at city airports."While the FAA takes a hear no evil, see no evil approach to addressing the unbearable flight delays crippling New York City-area airports, it's the passengers who feel the pain," the senator said. "But, until the FAA finally wakes up and does something about those delays, the least we can do is ensure that passengers are treated respectfully while they wait on the tarmac."The federal bill would require airlines to allow passengers to leave a plane once it has sat on the ground for more than three hours, Schumer said. Passengers would be offered the chance to step off the plane for every three hours of delay, he said.City departure delays averaged an hour between January 2002 and September 2007, the senator said. According to the FAA, 44 percent of all delays during the summer of 2007 took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, New Jersey and Philadelphia.Gianaris proposed the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights in 2007 following several incidents in which passengers were left stranded on airplanes without amenities for long periods of time, including several JetBlue flights that were delayed for as long as 10 hours on Feb. 14, 2007 at JFK Airport.The bill was challenged by the airline industry and overturned last month by a federal appeals court on the grounds that it interfered with federal laws that determined the price or service of air carriers."The airlines have gotten away with treating their passengers like cargo for long enough," Gianaris said.Under the state law, airlines were required to provide snacks, water, fresh air, power and working restrooms for passengers on planes that leave the gate but are delayed on runways for more than three hours.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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