News Article - March 04, 2008

  Delayed, canceled, lost luggage. Chances are if you wander around Philadelphia International Airport long enough, everyone has a horror story about being slighted by the airlines. A group is fighting to get an airline passengers' bill of rights passed. The bill is sitting on the table in Harrisburg and it's not moving fast enough, according to one action group. The group wants airline passengers to have some basic rights when flights get delayed or sit on the tarmac for hours. "There is nothing spelled out for you once that plane door shuts," Kate Hanni said.

   In the shadows of Independence Hall Monday, Hanni is fighting for a different kind of independence -- passenger freedom. One that would move Pennsylvania House Bill 2055 out of stagnant talks in Harrisburg and officially give airline passengers a "Bill of Rights." "The bill in Pennsylvania allows people to get off of planes after three hours and allows for their essential needs," Hanni said. The bill would allow for passenger's essential needs such as food, water, clean air and working bathrooms. Patricia Donohue used to be a flight attendant in the '80s.

   "In those days, they had food and beverages. Now it's the bare minimum, so things have to change and unless the airlines are mandated to do that, they will not," Donohue said. No federal laws on the books meant JetBlue passengers in a New York snowstorm a year ago sat on the runway for 11 hours. Last April, passengers coming home from Cancun slept on the runway for five hours in Detroit, waiting for a customs supervisor. Mark Mogel is a business traveler.

   "An impersonal corporation thinks they can just put you on a tarmac and not care about your time or essential needs is just wrong," Mogel said. Righting that wrong, passengers said, would make those skies seem friendly once again. Hanni said she started her crusade after being trapped on a runway for nine hours. She tried to get a national bill of rights passed for the airlines but that didn't happen. So now she's going state to state.

   Her next stop is Trenton, N.J., where she will press lawmakers there about a similar bill of rights that has yet to pass. New York is currently the only state that has a bill in place, and it's being challenged in a federal appeals court. According to "the coalition for an airline passengers bill of rights," Philadelphia was just barely fourth last year with slightly more than 150 flights that boarded then had passengers sit either at the gate or on the runway.

Source - NBC-10