Disgruntled Airline Pax Take Their Case To Court

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Kate Hanni, an advocate for airline passengers' rights, put it this way this week: "We won't take this sitting down (or belted to a seat locked in the upright position) any longer!" A federal judge in Oakland, Calif., has agreed to hear her case against American Airlines, the airline that left her and a planeful of passengers trapped on the tarmac in Austin, Texas, for nine hours in December 2006. Hanni says the passengers were denied access to food and water, and the toilets overflowed -- which the airline denies -- and went on to form the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights, to take her case to Washington and the courts. Hanni also succeeded last week in disengaging the Bill of Rights from the stalled FAA reauthorization bill, so it can proceed on its own.

The bill would require airlines to create detailed plans specifying how they will provide food, water, restroom facilities, ventilation, and medical treatment for passengers on board an aircraft that is on the ground for an extended time without terminal access. The bill also would allow the Transportation Department to assess fines against airlines that do not comply.