Absolutely painful" was how JetBlue CEO David Neeleman described seeing hundreds of his customers sitting on unmoving planes for as long as 10 hours during the Valentine's Day snow. As flyer frustration mounts--just ask the United passengers who in December were diverted from Denver to a Wyoming airport and sat there as their emptied planes left to pick up people elsewhere--calls for a Passenger Bill of Rights are getting louder. The Senate introduced such a bill on Feb. 20, and a House version is coming soon. Here's how they stack up to JetBlue's new policy, which relies on that unfailing tool of appeasement: cash.
Passengers can get a full refund plus a new round-trip ticket if their flight is canceled, by fault of the airline, within 12 hours of scheduled departure. For mere delays, CEO Neeleman promises vouchers that start at $25 and increase in value as the wait gets longer. And anyone involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight will get $1,000.
California Democrat Barbara Boxer has submitted a bill that addresses only the most basic needs of passengers. Adequate food, drinking water and restrooms must be available to people stuck waiting on planes, and they must have the option to disembark after sitting on the tarmac for three hours.
Mike Thompson, also a California Dem, is preparing a bill that would build on Boxer's by making airlines frequently update flyers on the timing and cause of a delay and try to return checked bags within a day. Customers booking trips would have to be told the lowest fares and which flights are often late or canceled.