No Relief for Airline Passengers

The traveling public took a hit from a federal appeals court decision rejecting a New York state law—the first in the nation—requiring airlines to provide the basics of food, water, toilets and fresh air to passengers confined in a plane delayed on the tarmac. The decision may force Congressional action.


Will Congress act to require airlines to provides necessities for passengers when delayed on the tarmac?

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that New York’s new state law interferes with federal laws governing the airlines. The court said the new law was laudable, and the circumstances that brought it about were deplorable, The Associated Press reports, but only the federal government has the authority to enact such a law.

The New York law was challenged by the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the industry group representing leading U.S. airlines. The ATA argued that state legislation of airline services is preempted by federal law.

“The court’s decision vindicates the position of the ATA and the airlines—that airline services are regulated by the federal government and that a patchwork of laws by states and localities would be impractical and harmful to consumer interests,” the ATA said in a statement. “This clear and decisive ruling sends a strong message to other states that are considering similar legislation.”

The ATA also opposes California’s similar proposed state legislation and quotes the Airline Deregulation Act, “States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation or other provision having the force and effect of law, related to a price, route or service of an air carrier...” The California legislation, like New York’s statute, is clearly preempted by federal law, the ATA says.

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