Cuomo Announces Victory For New York Air Travelers

ALBANY, NY (December 20, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced today the United States Court of the Northern District of New York has ruled against the airline industry and upheld New York's law protecting air travelers in the state.

The decision, issued today by U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn in Albany, dismissed the Air Transport Association of America, Inc.'s lawsuit that attempted to block New York's new Passenger Bill of Rights law. The law is set to go into effect January 1, 2008 and assures basic services for passengers confined on grounded airliners for extended periods of time.

"Judge Kahn's decision today is a victory for airline passengers in New York and potentially across the country," Cuomo said. "Prior to the passage of the law, travelers could and have been held captive on board grounded airliners for intolerable periods of time without such basic amenities as fresh water, clean and usable bathrooms, and fresh air. The judge's decision recognizes that deregulation did not give the airlines a free hand to treat travelers so callously, and it reaffirms states' rights to protect consumers when federal officials fail to do so."

New York is the first state with a Passenger Bill of Rights law. Under the law, whenever airline passengers have boarded an aircraft and are delayed more than three hours prior to takeoff, the carrier shall ensure that passengers are provided as needed with:

  • Adequate snacks, drinking water and other refreshments.
  • Electric generation service to provide fresh air and lights.
  • Waste removal service of holding tanks for on-board restrooms.

In addition, all air carriers will be required to clearly and conspicuously post or provide forms including an explanation of rights, consumer complaint information, and contact numbers and addresses for air travel service problems. Under the law, the Attorney General can sue an airline for violating the law and seek civil penalties of up to $1,000 per passenger.

Cuomo continued, "My office fully intends to hold accountable any airline which violates the Passenger Bill of Rights. Passengers will no longer be trapped without the protection of the law and at the mercy of the airlines. We believe New York's law will serve as a model for the nation."

Senator Charles Fuschillo, prime sponsor of the legislation in the state Senate, said, "Today's ruling by U.S. District Judge Kahn is a tremendous victory not only for all New Yorkers but for everyone who travels through New York's many airport. I applaud his decision to uphold this law to give airline passengers in New York State the rights and protections they deserve."

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, prime sponsor of the legislation in the Assembly, said, "Today, New York stood its ground on the front lines of the battle to protect the flying public. In the face of tremendous opposition from the airline industry, Judge Kahn struck a blow in favor of airline passengers' rights to be treated like people instead of cargo. I am hopeful that the 'passengers rights' movement will now spread until we have a national standard to protect consumers throughout the country."

Paul Hudson, executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project and counsel for The Coalition for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights said, "It certainly is a great Christmas present for New York's airline passengers and we would hope that the airlines will now see the light and that other states and the federal government will follow New York's example."

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Christopher Hall of the Albany litigation bureau.


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