Bill will keep passengers from being held indefinitely on planes, ensure passengers’ needs are met, and help airlines coordinate with government agencies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Thursday, March 01, 2007

WASHINGTON — Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, legislation that would require all airlines to provide a minimum level of customer service.

“We must find a way for airlines to conduct business without holding passengers on planes for hours on end,” said Thompson. “Passengers should always be treated fairly and decently when traveling, even when unforeseen complications arise. I believe this bill will help both passengers and the airlines know what to expect when problems occur.”

Thompson’s bill clearly outlines the standards of service airlines must incorporate in their contracts of carriage, which are legally binding agreements between passengers and airlines.

These standards include allowing passengers to deplane after three hours on the tarmac, while providing pilots with flexibility if takeoff is imminent, and providing passengers with adequate food, safe drinking water, clean and sanitary facilities, air ventilation and a reasonable temperature while waiting on an aircraft. Airlines must also keep passengers fully informed about the timing and cause of flight delays and cancellations.

The bill also calls on the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to review airport policies and infrastructure to help ensure airlines can meet these new standards.

“Whether it’s for business or pleasure, Americans rely on the airlines, and I do not want to create a law that puts them out of business,” said Thompson. “I recognize that there is a lot of work that Congress needs to do to improve airport infrastructure and upgrade the air traffic control system. But we need assurance that passengers will not be unnecessarily put in uncomfortable and unsafe conditions. I think this Passenger Bill of Rights is the best way to account for the needs of the passengers and the airlines.”


Gives passengers the right to deplane after any ground delay of three hours or more, with two exceptions.

  • Allow two 30-minute exceptions if the pilot reasonably determines that a flight will depart not later than 30 minutes after the delay, or
  • If the pilot reasonably determines that permitting a passenger to deplane would jeopardize passenger safety or security.

Requires airlines to provide passengers with adequate food, safe drinking water, sanitary facilities, air ventilation, and a reasonable temperature while waiting on an aircraft.

Requires airlines to frequently update passengers at the airport and aboard aircraft on the cause and timing of delays.

Requires airlines to disclose information on chronically delayed or cancelled flights at the time of ticket purchase.

Requires airlines to make every effort to return checked bags to passengers within 24 hours.

Requires airlines to draft and prominently display a Passenger Bill of Rights.

Requires airlines to make information on the lowest fares readily available to the traveling public.

Calls on the FAA to work with airlines to allow long-delayed flights to offload passengers who choose to disembark – without losing that flight’s position in the departure sequence.

Calls on DOT to:

  • Review airline and airport emergency contingency plans to make sure that the plans will effectively address weather emergencies in a coordinated manner.
  • Convene a meeting of air carriers, airport representatives and the FAA to discuss procedures to better respond to weather emergencies resulting in lengthy flight delays.
  • Study the ability of air carriers to provide essential needs of passengers, including food and water in cases where the flight is diverted to an unscheduled airport due to an emergency or weather situation.
  • Requires airlines to include this bill in their contract of carriage.