FREEHOLD – In an effort to protect the rights of airline passengers, State Senator Ellen Karcher introduced legislation creating an Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate, and establishing a consumer bill of rights for airline passengers.
“As home to one of the busiest airports in the nation, we need to ensure that all airline passengers, whether traveling first class or coach, are treated with respect and decency when delays occur,” said Senator Karcher (D-Monmouth and Mercer). “With the high price of airplane tickets, it’s absolutely unacceptable that many passengers find themselves sitting on a runway tarmac for hours without basic services. This bill will make sure travelers are compensated justly for such inconveniences.”
The bill would create the Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate within the Division of Consumer Affairs in the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. It will receive consumer complaints and propose solutions and, when necessary, refer matters to the Attorney General for legal action.
The bill also would establish a consumer bill of rights for airline passengers. The bill of rights provides that airline passengers on board a scheduled aircraft for more than three hours must be provided with temporary electric power for fresh air circulation and lights, working restroom services, and adequate food and drinking water. The air carrier must also provide information to register a consumer complaint, so passengers may file complaints with State and federal aviation agencies, including the Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate, according to the proposal.
Airline carriers found in violation of the bill of rights would be liable for financial penalties of up to $1,000 per passenger. The Department of Law and Public Safety would include in its annual report a summery of the activities of the Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate.
Senator Karcher sponsored this legislation after receiving several complaints from constituents regarding their horrible experiences dealing with airline carriers and after two airlines carriers in two months last winter stranded passengers on board for several hours. In December 2006, American Airlines stranded passengers for eight hours on a tarmac in Austin, Texas, and during a winter storm in February 2006, ten JetBlue flights were significantly delayed at New York’s Kennedy airport – one for eleven hours.
“The Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate will now be the voice of the millions of Jersey air travelers who feel they were short-changed by an airline carrier,” said Senator Karcher.