Jet Blue’s woes, and the rights of travelers.

I was dismayed to hear about Jetblue’s recent mistakes leading to people spending 11 hours trapped in unmoving planes. It seems even with TV’s and leather seats, they don’t treat their passengers as any more than human cargo.

They sent me an email today about their new bill of rights. It’s impressive at first, especially the $1000 for being bumped, but littered throughout the document is the (intentionally?) vague term “controllable irregularity”. We’ve all heard or read about instances where airlines blame the weather for delays, even as passengers can see people working on some problem with a plane, so what’s to stop Jetblue from doing the same thing?

As far as being trapped on a plane goes, they still thing five hours is a reasonable time to be on a plane without motion, which is ridiculous. I can’t really understand why nobody on those planes snapped and popped an emergency slide to get out of there after five hours, let alone eleven.

This debacle, and the case of American airlines doing the same thing to passengers diverted to Austin during a thunderstorm show that voluntary corporate promises aren’t enough to protect passengers. Moreover, from what I’ve read American airlines defended their actions in Austin by saying that if they deplaned the passengers, they’d lose their takeoff “slot” and might not get out of there for three days. This tells me we need a directive covering not just airlines, but the airport authorities and the FAA as well. The airport should be required to make a gate available to deplane passengers after two to three hours, and the FAA should be required to let that plane leave as soon as everyone has returned to the plane and is ready to go, not make it go to the back of the queue as is apparently the case now.

MSNBC has a roundup of some of the recent incidents here. The coalition for an airline passenger’s bill of rights has a site with more information.

Hopefully people will (for once) have the attention span to see that something concrete happens here, rather than be distracted by some BS corporate policy changes or some celebrity car crash or new dress or haircut and let the issue fade away, as with so many other important things.

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