Unless emergency bill is amended, airlines will get $500M – and passengers get bumped

WASHINGTON (September 22) – The head of the nation’s leading passenger rights organization today urged Congressman James Oberstar (DFL-MN) to give relief to stranded airline passengers as part of emergency legislation re-authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The bill, under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure which Oberstar chairs, gives the airlines $500 million in taxpayer-funded “war insurance,” but fails to contain an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights that would give relief to flyers who are now stuck inside the aircraft indefinitely while planes’ departures are delayed.

“I urge Chairman Oberstar not to give the airlines’ lobbyists and campaign donations a seat in First Class at the expense of passengers who are stuck back in coach – for eight or nine hours at a time,” said Kate Hanni, President of the Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights (https://flyersrights.org).

“Today, the airlines can keep you stranded indefinitely on the tarmac in a sealed metal tube, and there’s nothing you can do about it. We’re only asking that after three hours, they take you back to the terminal and let you get some fresh air, food, fresh water and a toilet that works. We urge Congressman Oberstar, as chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to use his influence to give relief to these stranded passengers as part of emergency legislation now before his Committee to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.”

Hanni explained that Congress must enact an emergency extension of legislation reauthorizing the FAA by September 30, or the Agency must legally shut its doors. The airlines, which spent $16 million this year alone on lobbying, according to http://www.opensecrets.org, have obtained an amendment to the measure granting them $500 million in insurance guarantees against future acts of terrorism. Congress has so far refused, however, to include provisions creating a legally-enforceable “Passengers’ Bill of Rights,” including a requirement that passengers be returned to the terminal and let off their aircraft after three hours of delay.

“Maybe if more Members of Congress rode in coach with the rest of us instead of flying in First Class or on corporate jets, they’d be more compassionate. In the meantime, we’ll make sure their constituents know it if they give airline donors big bucks while passengers get bumped.”

Hanni, a private citizen who took on the airlines after she was forced to sit for 9 hours waiting for a flight to take off, says that the Coalition will do “everything in our power” to apply citizen pressure to the legislators in the days remaining before both Houses take up legislation extending the FAA’s re-authorization. The FAA’s authorization expires on September 30 and Congressional leaders have not said when the re-authorization legislation will be voted upon.

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