Passengers' Deplaning Rights at Risk From Airline Retaliation, Flyers' Rights Head Says

Jun 01, 2010, 09:11 ET from

NAPA, Calif., June 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Airline passengers' rights to deplane from aircraft delayed for more than three hours are in jeopardy from airline retaliatory tactics, Founder Kate Hanni said today in a letter to the Department of Transportation (DoT). Ms. Hanni called upon the DoT to act promptly under existing authority and to promulgate an additional rule to prohibit airlines from punishing passengers for deplaning.

Effective April 29, 2010 airlines are required to have in place a plan to permit passengers who wish to do so, to deplane after being delayed on the tarmac for more than three hours.  According to Ms. Hanni, airlines are now retaliating against passengers who wish to avail themselves of these government-granted rights.

Citing the example of American Airlines Flight 1395 from Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth diverted to Houston on May 29, 2010, Ms. Hanni said, "the retaliation is in the form of threatening passengers who wanted to deplane that they would not be allowed to reclaim their seats when the flight departed, even though those seats would be available to additionally boarded passengers, that they would not be provided alternate onward transportation to Dallas-Fort Worth, and that their tickets would be considered fully flown, even though they had not been delivered to their final destination." 

Terry Wassink, a passenger, described the horror unfolding on this flight. "The air conditioning was left off, and my mother's heart was palpitating; her medication was locked in her checked baggage, which the flight attendants made clear we would forfeit our right to if we were to deplane; it's as if they were committed to keeping us on this plane at all costs. We thought there was a rule to protect us."

"Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised," Ms. Hanni said, "that the airlines are less than gracious in accepting the new government mandates for decent passenger treatment.  Now their actions threaten the very gains that have been made. It has been and remains a continuing struggle," she added. is the largest non-profit airline passengers rights group in the world with 28,000 members and growing.  They are responsible for 9 bills being introduced in Congress, have testified 7 times before Congress and fought for and succeeded in getting the 3 hour rule through the Department of Transportation.  For info:

Contact:  Kate Hanni, Executive Director

(707) 337-0328