New Law Might Limit Passenger’s Waits on the Tarmac

A new call for passenger’s rights was galvanized by an ordeal that left 47 passengers trapped overnight on a small regional jet in Minnesota.

The travelers were stuck with no food, little water and just one toilet at Rochester International Airport about a Continental Express plane.

The reason they stayed trapped was because a ground worker for Mesaba Airlines, who had the authority to get the passengers off the plane, refused to do so because he didn’t understand airport security rules.

Some of the passengers who endured the 5 1/2 hour wait have prompted US Transportation secretary Ray LaHood to order an investigation. The experience has also prompted a movement in Congress to help get passengers off delayed planes.

But others like Joe Brancatelli say that changes in the law won’t do anything, since Congress can’t mandate common sense.

A new law nonetheless is being voted on next month in the Senate, which would allow passengers to exit a plane after three hours of waiting.