web Musings of The Global Traveller

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Passenger Bill of Rights

With Jet Blue the latest airline to keep passengers stranded onboard for hours during last week's storms, the calls for Passenger Bill of Rights (PBOR) continue unabated. (See this entry on the previous American Airlines incident.)

The Cranky Flier lays out a nice argument about why he is against a Passenger Bill of Rights. I don't think a PBOR would necessarily increase pre-cancellations of flights, though. After all mass cancelled flights cause headaches for airlines with flow-on effects on schedules for days.

One point The Cranky Flier makes is that the airline will not always be to blame for keeping passengers onboard. This I agree with. However I do not think that is enough justification for not holding airlines accountable if they keep passengers onboard for unreasonably extended periods of time.

The same no fault argument can apply for misplaced luggage (eg when first airline fails to tag bags correctly or airport baggage handlers fail to transfer bags or transfer them to the wrong aircraft). In the case of misplaced luggage there is agreement that the passenger need only deal with the last airline involved in the itinerary. To the extent another airline is at fault the airlines sort out compensation between themselves. I see the same being possible for extended onboard delays. If a second airline is preventing the aircraft in question from using a gate then the two airlines should sort it out between themselves afterwards.

The experience with the EU regulations on cancellations and delays seems to be that penalising the airlines for unduly inconveniencing passengers has a positive effect on the behaviour of the airlines. I think some kind of PBOR may also work.

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