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Eye On Olympia

Airlines try to keep passengers’ bill of rights from taking off…

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, both headquartered in Seattle, are trying to put the brakes on SB 6269, an airline passengers’ bill of rights.

The bill, patterned on one in New York, requires that passengers get things like drinks, food and medical care if they’re stranded in a plane on the tarmac for more than three hours. (Also on that list: fresh air and waste removal services.)

The bill would also create a new consumer-advocate office in the state attorney general’s office to investigate complaints and help resolve consumers resolve problems with airlines.

As originally proposed, the bill would have required compensation for passengers delayed more than 12 hours and requiring airlines to publish monthly lists of delayed flights. Those provisions were stripped out.

Still, some lawmakers clearly have some concerns about the impact on airlines.

“What about acts of God?” said Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood. What if people are stranded due to snow or high winds. “Around here, it could even be volcanic eruptions,” he added.

Dan Coyne, a lobbyist for Alaska and Horizon airlines, said that nobody’s being stranded on the tarmac for hours and hours here.

“In our recollection…we do not know of one incident where people have been stuck in an airplane for three hours or more in the state of Washington,” he said. “It just hasn’t happened.”

Alaska and horizon have policies to provide water and snacks “well before that three hour mark” and tries to get people back to the gate and unloaded if they’ll be stuck on the tarmac for more than two hours, he said.

“So if it passed, it wouldn’t hurt you, huh?” concluded Sen. Magarita Prentice, D-Renton, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

True, responded Coyne. But he said the bill would send a message to airlines “as to how they might be valued as a corporate citizen.”


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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