You Still Just Get a Bag of Nuts, Though

Good news for us human cargo today.

A federal judge Thursday dismissed a challenge to a new state law requiring more humane treatment for passengers stuck on planes that have been grounded for more than three hours by bad weather or for other reasons. 

Northern District of New York Court Judge Lawrence E. Kahn held that the new law, called the Passenger Bill of Rights by its legislative sponsors, is not pre-empted by the federal Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, as a group representing major U.S. passenger and cargo airlines contend.

The pre-emption clause of the federal act, 49 U.S.C. §41713(b)(1), prohibits states from creating laws “related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” Kahn held that the state law, which would require that passengers be given water, fresh air and working toilets if delays stretch past three hours, affects neither an airline’s “price,” “route” nor “service.”

It is a legitimate use of state police power to protect the health and safety of its citizens, the judge held in Air Transport Association of America v. Cuomo, 1:07-cv-1103.

Can you believe that human beings in this civilized nation would fight for the “right” to keep water and sanitation from fellow human beings for hours on end — human beings who paid for the privelege, no less? Well, it’s a matter of principle, you see.

“ATA believes that the Court has misinterpreted the law,” a statement from the association said. “We will consider our options, including filing an appeal. ATA’s sole purpose in filing this lawsuit was to preserve the principle that commercial aviation is best regulated by one source — the federal government — and not 50 individual states.”

To be fair, JetBlue, who made St. Patrick’s Day a memorable one in New York for keeping passengers stranded on a tarmac for eleven hours, apologized and did compensate passengers with payments ranging from $25 toward a future flight to a round-trip ticket. Sure makes up for no food, no water, no toilets, hot dank air, and surliness all around.

Ironically, this also was true:

Goldman Sachs analyst Robert Barry upgraded the stock of JetBlue Airways Corp. to “Buy” late Wednesday, just as planeloads of angry passengers were finally being freed after being trapped in jets for as long as 11 hours by a weather-related nightmare at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport… JetBlue shares jumped 62 cents, or 4.7 percent, to close at $13.85 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

I wonder if the ATA noticed that bit. Nah, must be a coincidence.

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