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No More 'Flightmares'? Airline Passenger Bill of Rights Approved By Senate

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Photo by Mike Chen aka MetalMan (on break) via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Photo by Mike Chen aka MetalMan (on break) via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
They called it a "flightmare"--passengers flying from LAX to JFK earlier this month on a Virgin Atlantic flight were left rationing Pringles and waiting for hours after a weather-related diversion. Grounded and unable to deplane and provided with only four potato chips each and some water, the 16-hour ordeal left passengers outraged.

Legislation passed yesterday, however, will help ensure this doesn't happen again. The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, included in the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill approved 93-0 in the senate, means that travelers will not be "trapped" and denied access to food, water, and restrooms. Introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), this "Bill of Rights" has been in the works for several years. Says Boxer of yesterday's passage:

This is a great day for airline passengers all across the country. When this bill becomes law, it will ensure that passengers no longer have to live in fear of being trapped on planes for hours without food, water or functioning restrooms. Senator Snowe and I have fought for three years to pass this common-sense Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, and I am so pleased that travelers will finally get the permanent protections they deserve.
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So what does The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights include?The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights will:

-Require airlines to provide passengers with food, potable water, comfortable cabin temperature and ventilation, and adequate restrooms while a plane is delayed on the ground.
-Require airlines to offer passengers the option of safely deplaning once they have sat on the ground for three hours after the plane door has closed. This option would be provided every three hours the plane continues to sit on the ground.
-Require airports and airlines to develop contingency plans for delayed flights to be reviewed and approved by Department of Transportation. The bill also allows the DOT to fine air carriers and airports that do not submit or fail to comply with contingency plans.
-Direct the DOT to create a consumer complaint hotline so that passengers can alert the agency about delays.

The bill provides two exceptions to the three-hour option: the pilot may decide not to allow passengers to deplane if he or she believes their safety or security would be at risk due to weather or other emergencies. Additionally, the pilot may delay deplaning up to 30 minutes beyond the three-hour period if he or she reasonably believes the flight will depart within 30 minutes.