So much for the US airline passenger bill of rights.
The series of high-profile situations where passengers were left for 4, 7, even as long as 11 hours sitting in a plane on the tarmac — often without food, fluid, or functioning toilets — led to the formation of a government task force that was meant to come up with a set of solutions to the problem. Consumer advocates touted, and heavily publicized, the idea of a passenger bill of rights, which would force airlines to guarantee things like water, some entertainment, well-maintained sanitary facilities, and a return to the airport gate if the delay laster longer than 3 or 4 hours.
Problem is, the task force was dominated by the airline industry. And when the task force announced its conclusions on Wednesday, the industry influence was pretty clear. Rather than guaranteeing passenger comfort (and a decrease in air rage, a factor nobody seems to have considered) and safety (I count staying hydrated, staying sanitarily evacuated, and staying sane to be safety considerations), the task force has come up with a set of voluntary guidelines for both airlines and airports to follow. From MSNBC, “The task force report recommends that:
* Airlines update passengers delayed on tarmacs every 15 minutes even if there is nothing new to report.
* A secure room be provided for passengers from diverted overseas flights so they can avoid having to go through security checks when reboarding an aircraft to their final destination.
* When practical, refreshments and entertainment should be made available to passengers confined aboard aircraft awaiting takeoff.
* Airlines should make reasonable efforts to be keep airplane restrooms usable.”
Uh-huh. Well, from mad cow disease in the meat industry to mad greed disease in the financial industry, we’ve seen how superbly self-regulation has worked in this country. As one California representative to Congress pointed out, the airlines had a year to fix these problems on their own, and their resounding failure to do a darn thing doesn’t bode well for their future adherence to voluntary guidelines.