Senate hears testimony on rights for air passengers

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- The way Kate Hanni tells it, an ill-fated holiday trip that left her family stuck inside a grounded airliner for nine hours without food, running water or working toilets amounted to "cruel and inhumane" treatment that no passenger should have to endure.

So infuriated was she about the ordeal in December that she and her husband started a coalition of fed-up fliers to press for an industrywide passenger bill of rights.

Yesterday, the Napa, Calif., resident appeared before a Senate panel to lend support to a bill by Sens. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, and Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican, that would create a required set of rights to supplement the voluntary guidelines airlines follow now.

The measure would allow stuck passengers to get off an aircraft after three hours on the ground, unless the pilot believes the plane will soon be cleared to depart or if letting passengers off would compromise safety. The bill also would require airlines to provide food, drinking water and restrooms.

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