Senate Republicans kill Passenger’s Bill of Rights

Well, it might be time to put a nail in the coffin of the Passengers’ Bill of Rights.

The bill, which is meant to give consumers some redress if, among other things, their flights are significantly delayed,
died by means of Senate filibuster yesterday, and now looks like it won’t surface again until a new administration comes to Washington, if then.

For those unfamiliar with Congressional terms, a filibuster is an endless debate put on by one party that essentially wears down the rest of the chamber until it gives up and goes home without voting. Politicians have been known to read the Washington D.C. phone book out loud in an effort to keep the continual “debate” going, and it’s happened before that a filibuster lasts long enough that cots need to be brought into the congressional chambers.

This filibuster was lead by Republicans, and it had the effect of essentially shelving the entire issue of the Passenger’s Bill of Rights. Advocacy groups are crying foul because it looked not only as if the bill could pass, but that it would actually have some teeth to it, including setting firm deadlines for which national airline carriers would have to submit their plans of compliance to the Secretary of Transportation.

Some highlights of the bill would have forced airlines to provide adequate food and water if a flight is delayed significantly, and would have given passengers the right to deplane if their flight is delayed more than three hours after the cabin doors are shut.

The government has been fighting the measure for months, arguing that the national Airline Deregulation Act trumps individual state law, the level at which people looking to establish a Passenger’s Bill of Rights have been spending most of their time.

Calls for a Passenger’s Bill of Rights picked up steam a year ago, following the now-famous Jet Blue debacle, when more than 1,000 people flying the airline sat hostage on the tarmac for hours – one flight for more than 11 hours – during a New York snow storm.