Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
July 21, 2009  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

BOXER-SNOWE AIRLINE PASSENGERS BILL OF RIGHTS PASSES COMMERCE COMMITTEE  

 Included in FAA Bill Along With Snowe-Boxer Regional Airline Safety Legislation

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill that includes the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights and the Ensuring One Level of Aviation Safety Act, which were both authored by U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  

Senator Boxer said, “This FAA bill sends a clear message that safety and passengers rights are a top priority. I thank the Commerce Committee for acting on this important legislation that includes the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights and provisions to improve regional airline safety. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this measure through the Senate.” 

“The FAA reauthorization contains critical elements that will ensure our nation’s airlines have access to the tools and resources they need to stay financially stable and transform the way they provide air service to the American people,” said Senator Snowe, a senior member of the Commerce Committee. “It also reinforces the government’s singular priority: safety. I commend the Commerce Committee for moving forward on this monumental challenge and including vital safety provisions that will for the first-time in our nation’s history establish high-quality standards for the safety of passengers both on the ground and in the air.”  

The Boxer-Snowe Airline Passengers Bill of Rights would:  

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.  

Make airports and airlines develop contingency plans for delayed flights to be reviewed and approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). 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.  

Provisions of the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights were included in last year’s FAA Reauthorization bill, which was passed by the Commerce Committee but blocked on the Senate floor. This year, the bill is included in its entirety.  

Boxer and Snowe first introduced the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights in 2007 following several incidents where passengers were forced to remain on airplanes for as long as 11 hours. The case for federal action was strengthened when the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a New York State law protecting passengers’ rights, saying only the Federal Government has the authority to enact such a law.  

The FAA Reauthorization bill also includes key provisions of the Snowe-Boxer Ensuring One Level of Aviation Safety Act of 2009, legislation the Senators introduced following the tragic crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, New York. The FAA bill includes the following provisions to strengthen safety standards at regional airlines:  

Require the FAA to perform random inspections at flight schools and regional airlines to ensure that training and safety standards are being enforced. 

Improve current training standards for pilots and establish remedial and recurring training protocols.  

Require the FAA to publicly provide NTSB with a notice of when and how the FAA will implement any NTSB recommendation.  

And allow carriers immediate access to a pilot’s records, including failed flight checks, for the duration of their career.  

The bill now goes before the full Senate for consideration.