Courts Shoot Down New York Passenger Bill of Rights

Last Updated Mar 26, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

The US Court of Appeals in Manhattan today did exactly what the airlines were hoping. They decided that the State of New York is not allowed to enact its own passenger bill of rights. Airlines should be happy about this (and they are), even if passengers aren't.

This whole debate stemmed from some angry passengers being trapped on an American Airlines aircraft for an extended period of time. That was followed by JetBlue's Valentine's Day debacle, and it snowballed from there. (Pardon the pun.) Of course, nobody wants to be trapped on an airplane for up to 9 hours at a time. That's ridiculous. But it's not like the airline really wanted to keep people on board. There were a million little things that went wrong.

The airlines said they could self-police, and lately that appears to be happening successfully. But some people don't trust airline promises. People like Kate Hanni, who endured one of those lengthy onboard delays, want regulation from the government.

The federal government has the jurisdiction here, but nothing had happened. So, New York State took things into its own hands by enacting a law of its own. This is a terrible idea. Can you imagine being an airline flying to, say, 40 states? Each state could craft its own rules about what is required in a delay, and there's nothing saying it had to be the same as any other state. Compliance would be an absolute nightmare.

So I imagine there were some sighs of relief around airline headquarters today when the Court of Appeals ruled that the states aren't allowed to do this. It is the domain of the federal government to do anything, if they so desire.

Of course, airlines would be happier without any regulation at all, but I have think that the idea of dealing with a federal rule is still far more appealing than a variety of state rules.