The debacle at JFK last week involving Jet Blue Airlines where some passengers sat for 10 hours inside planes with foul air, overflowing toilets, little food and a lack of information during the Valentine’s Day storm was just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the Stats released from U.S. Department of Transportation, such incidents are very common now a day. Between 2000 and 2006, passengers have been held inside more than 330 airplanes for more than five hours while waiting to take off. This is totally unfair in regard to customer’s experience.
In response, lawmakers in the House and Senate are drafting bills that would create a new “airline passengers’ bill of rights” that, among other things, would require planes delayed on the ground more than three hours to allow passengers to get off, compel airlines to provide passengers with frequent updates about delays and mandate disclosure of information about chronically delayed or cancelled flights.
One bill would also require that airlines provide every passenger with food, safe drinking water, sanitary bathroom facilities and adequate ventilation while the plane is delayed.
Though, against this bill the airline industry has passed a strong oppose message, as if this bill gets passed then the grounded planes would have to return to the terminal after a certain number of hours. Officials say returning a plane to a gate is rarely the simple solution it might seem, because in most cases it means the flight must be cancelled. That’s because airline crews run up against federal limits on how long they can be on duty and planes lose their takeoff slots.
What’s really happening is that when extreme flight delays occur, problems multiply, according to consumer experts, because of the frenzied pace of today’s airline marketplace. Airlines have squeezed out excess capacity so planes are flying with nearly every seat filled, meaning the toilets overflow faster. Few airlines serve meals, meaning there is no food onboard. Customer service has been pared back, meaning fewer agents are available to rebook or assist stranded passengers. There is much less margin for error, and it’s the customer who suffers.
It’s time for Congress to bring airlines back into reality with measures that will make them accountable to the public they are supposed to be serving.