• Court Grounds New York Passenger Bill of Rights
  • April 17, 2008
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • A New York law requiring airlines to provide food, water, clean toilets, and fresh air to passengers stranded for more than three hours on the runway has been struck down.
    In a unanimous ruling reversing a lower-court decision, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that the federal Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 preempted the New York Passenger Bill of Rights.

    After winter storms in 2007 caused delays that left passengers confined on runways for up to 10 hours, the New York Legislature passed the law – the first of its kind – last August. Eight other states are currently weighing proposed legislation that would compel airlines to take a variety of similar measures, such as allowing passengers to disembark.

    In December the lower court held that the law constituted a necessary exercise of the state's power to protect public health. However, the appeals court said the law was preempted, citing a provision in the Airline Deregulation Act that reserves the regulation of matters of "price, route or service" provided by airlines to the federal government.

    The panel said the law, although "laudable," conflicted with the federal law, which aimed to reinvigorate the airline industry by replacing a "patchwork of state service-determining laws, rules and regulations" with competitive forces.