UPRIGHT AND LOCKEDGrounded No More?How long is too long to sit on the tarmacwaiting for takeoff? Three hours, says Kate Hanni of Napa, Calif., who started a campaign for a passenger bill of rights in Congress after sitting in a grounded American Airlinesplane for more than eight hourson Dec. 29. Her campaign got traction from JetBlue's recent fiasco,in which planes full of passengers sat idle on taxiways for up to 10 hours, with subsequent delays and cancellations affecting tens of thousands of passengers.
As of last week, more than 12,000 people had signed a petition in support of Hanni's proposed bill of rights. Two California Democrats have agreed to sponsor legislation that would, among other things, give passengers the right to deplane after three hours.
But passengers are rarely left sitting on the tarmac for longer than three hours, and inflexible, arbitrary deadlines could be dangerous,said David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, an airline trade group. For example, it might not be safe to unload a plane during a lightning storm or by way of a metal stairway and bus during a blizzard if no gate is available. Moreover, passengers who have waited three hours will be unhappyif they're forced to deplane even though they could have taken off momentarily.
The industry staved off an earlier push for congressional action by adopting a 12-point "customer service commitment."The commitment promised "every reasonable effort" to provide food, water and restroom facilities during an undefined "long delay." Any remaining impetus to seek legislative action disappeared with 9/11 -- until now.
How did Hanni come up with that three-hour deadline? That's what Northwestbegan promising after it prompted a similar call to action by leaving passengers in grounded planes in 1999, Hanni told CoGo during an interview she sandwiched between TV appearances.
As for JetBlue, it issued its own customer bill of rights last week. Although it sets a five-hourdeadline before promising to unload planes sitting on the tarmac, it offers vouchers to customers stuck in planes delayed as little as 30 minutes. Vouchers range from $25 to the price of a round-trip ticket, depending on the delay's length.
Find JetBlue's bill of rights at
BOOZE NEWSNo, You Won't Drink to ThisIf you're flying to or fromNew Mexicoon US Airways, Northwest or Frontier, be prepared for a dry trip. The airlines were ordered to stop serving alcoholas of tomorrow because they don't have a state liquor license. All three stopped before the deadline. Since when has an airline needed a state liquor license?
For always in New Mexico, says regulatory official Edward Lopez. All other airlinesthat use New Mexico airports (and Amtrak for that matter) already have liquor licenses. Somehow these three just slipped through the cracks, Lopez said.
New Mexico authorities noticed the problem and issued their edict after a deadly accidentin November. They contend a man boarded a US Airways flight drunk, drank whiskey on board, left the airport in his pickup truck and picked up more alcohol. When he slammed into a family's minivan, killing five people and himself, his blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit.
A number of states require airlines to have liquor licenses, Lopez said. FAA spokesman Les Dorr said the feds don't keep track and have their own rules. Airlines under FAA regulations:
· Must not allow anyone who appears intoxicated to board.
· Must not serve alcohol to anyone who appears intoxicated.
· Must allow passengers to drink only alcohol served by the airline.
· Must report any disturbances by drunken passengers.
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