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Constitutional Law

Airline Passenger Bill of Rights Crashes in 2nd Circuit

Posted Mar 25, 2008 11:46 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has overturned a groundbreaking New York state law giving delayed airline passengers the right to food, water and other amenities.

The New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that federal laws governing airlines pre-empt the state law, the Associated Press reports. Only the federal government has the authority to enact a so-called passenger bill of rights, the court said in its opinion (PDF).

The statute required airlines to give passengers stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours fresh air, waste removal services, and adequate food and water. Failure to comply could have resulted in fines of up to $1,000 a passenger.

“If New York’s view regarding the scope of its regulatory authority carried the day, another state could be free to enact a law prohibiting the service of soda on flights departing from its airports, while another could require allergen-free food options on its outbound flights, unraveling the centralized federal framework for air travel,” the court said. “Although the goals of the [state statute] are laudable and the circumstances motivating its enactment deplorable, only the federal government has the authority to enact such a law.”

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