NY passenger bill of rights challenge dismissed

/ Source: The Associated Press

A U.S. judge has dismissed an industry trade group's challenge to New York's state law that requires airlines to provide food, water, clean toilets and fresh air to passengers stuck on the ground in airplanes for more than three hours.

Supporters of the law say it could become a model for other states, but it has been strongly opposed by airlines.

The judge concluded Thursday the provisions constitute a health and safety issue and not airline "services" that can be regulated only by federal authorities.

"Fresh air, water, sanitation and food are necessities in the extreme situation in which this act applies," U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn wrote. "It threatens the public health to contain people on grounded airplanes for hours without these necessities, particularly, though not exclusively, if passengers include diabetics, young children, the sick or the frail."

New York lawmakers passed America's first "airline passenger bill of rights," effective Jan. 1, after delays last winter at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City stranded passengers on the tarmac for more than 10 hours.

The Air Transport Association, whose members carry more than 90 percent of U.S. passenger and cargo traffic, wanted to stop the law from taking effect. In a statement, it said it is considering its 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," the association's statement said.

The law says that after a pre-takeoff delay of more than three hours, airlines must ensure passengers get electric generating service for fresh air and lights, waste removal for restroom holding tanks and adequate food, drinking water and other refreshments, as needed.