Updated April 30, 2018 – In a surprising turnaround of its usual tilt toward the interests of the aviation industry, the United States House of Representatives passed, on April 27, 2018, its version of the six year budget reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (“Reauthorization Act”), a number of provisions that appear to address the long smoldering, and vociferously expressed, concerns of the flying public with, among other things, the unannounced “bumping” of passengers with reservations and paid tickets to make way for airline employees; airline employees’ difficulty in dealing with passengers in such stressful situations; the size and orientation of aircraft seats that have been radically shrinking in order to make room for more passengers; and even the absence of ground transportation accessing the airport itself.
The United States Department of Transportation has finally taken a step the United States Congress refused to take: it has enacted an Airline Consumer Protection Rule that, among other things: (1) limits to three hours the amount of time passengers at large and medium hub airports must spend on a delayed aircraft without deplaning (with exceptions for safety and security); (2) requires food, potable water and usable bathrooms after no more than two hours; (3) requires provision of medical attention where required; and (4) requires airlines, by July 23, to display on their website delay information for every domestic flight the airlines operate. www.dot.gov/affairs/2010/dot8210.htm
It has been Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP’s position from the outset that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure, has always required that passengers be released from delayed aircraft whether on the tarmac or not (see previous Chevalier, Allen & Lichman blog on the subject). However, the courage and proactivity of the Department of Transportation, especially in the absence of the same courage from Congress, deserves approbation from the public and from Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP. The full text of the Final Rule can be found at edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-30615.pdf.