When New York State’s passenger bill of rights went into effect on January 1 it was considered a pretty significant win for passengers, even though it covered very few specific circumstances (delays after departure from the gate lasting 3+ hours) and had very minimal requirements (potable water and functional lavs). Well that minimal effort was shut down this afternoon when the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals declared that only the federal government can regulate airlines, including when they are on the ground at airports in various states. The crux of the courts decision is summed thus:
another state could be free to enact a law prohibiting the service of soda on flights departing from its airports, while another could require allergen-free food options on its outbound flights, unraveling the centralized federal framework for air travel.
In other words, states cannot require basic minimum standards because other states might have different standards. I actually understand the argument, and since air travel is interstate commerce I’m somewhat partial to the federal management of the situation. The problem is that the federal government refuses to actually do their job and handle the situation. The FAA cannot modernize the air traffic control system quickly enough to actually handle the volume of flights that we have today, much less in the future, even though every time you fly there is a tax to fund such efforts tagged on to the ticket price. Congress refuses to deal with the issue (and I don’t blame them, based on how much money the airline lobby is throwing at them) so we’re stuck in no man’s land.
The airlines are effectively immune. A sad day, indeed.
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