Based on your experience, what basic rights do airline passengers deserve?

Recent incidents of people being stranded for hours in a grounded airplane have added momentum to efforts to pass a passenger’s bill of rights. And one airline – Sun Country – has changed its policy to require that passengers be returned to the terminal if a wait exceeds four hours. Based on your experience, what basic rights do airline passengers deserve?

Soft drinks, access to food (more than pretzels), restrooms and freedom after 90 mins. -Kathleen, St. Louis Park, MN

We deserve to be treated like people, not luggage. There should be limits on how long you can be forced to stay on a plane because they won’t unload you. -Susan, Big Lake, MN

Share your reply in the comments: Based on your experience, what basic rights do airline passengers deserve?

  • Airline passengers deserve to receive monetary damages from false imprisonment by the airlines.

  • I don’t think any passenger should have to sit on a plane for more than four hours in any circumstances. I also think that any time a passenger is stuck on a tarmac for more than two hours they should be refunded their ticket price and the airline should be required to provide food and beverages on the plane.

    These requirements of course could be modified depending on the plane the passengers are stuck on. Their is tremendous difference between a small plane like the one in Rochester and a 747. I also understand that extenuating circumstances but planes aren’t meant to house people.

  • Tim Nelson

    If the airlines have no authority on security matters, Isn’t the question moot?

  • I think that passengers deserve the right to get off the plane (in a secure area) if the wait exceeds two hours. They should also get a partial refund on their tickets if they end up arriving at their destination more than four hours late, although I could see this being waived under certain circumstances such as a snow storm that immobilizes multiple airports.

  • Kel

    I agree, the passengers deserve the right to get off the plane if the wait is more than 2 hours.

    I think the passengers deserve a complete refund anytime they are forced to wait on a plane more than 4 hours. The key here is “on a plane.” In other words, don’t load your planes if you know there is no way they are going to get off the ground anytime soon.

    Passengers have a right to working and “clean” toilets, free water and discounted food. Why can’t they service a toilet of a plane that is on the ground after 2 hours so that it doesn’t stink up the place? I’ve had the experience of sitting on a plane within 5 rows of the toilet as a major delay (more than 2 hours) developed. It wasn’t pleasant and then we had a 2.5 hour flight. Clean, smell free toilets are an unsolvable problem? Really? I’ve been on an international flight of 13.5 hours with a lot more people and it didn’t have the “smelly” problem.

  • Ben

    Is it really that hard to come up with a plan to evacuate a plane in the event of a significant delay (more than 2 hours)? Again it all about money. It would be very easy for airports/airlines to have a jetway shuttle that evacuates a plane in just about any weather or situation.

    Typical that government or some group has to step in to make a corporation treat people with some semblance of decency

  • Garret

    I agree a passenger should have the right to get off the plane and receive compensation for long delays. I’ve also experienced the long waits (4 hours) in small planes with toilets that can’t be emptied, nothing to eat and not being held on the plane against my will. I won’t fly US Airways again after this week’s experience.

  • mnguy

    Airlines treat passengers with contempt because they can get away with it. There is no effective competition for intercity travel. Passengers put up with it because we have to. The entire “system” is broken from the crummy air traffic control system with out of date technology to balkanized airport management, to non competitive airlines.

    Flying sucks. It’s too crowded, too bureaucratic, “security” is a big joke, inconvenient, demeaning (ever been searched?), and disgusting once on the cramped planes.

    As soon as passengers start asserting some basic expectations including getting off these unsanitary cattle cars after 2 hours or so there will be no changes.


  • Earl Weibeler

    Why do the planes need to be away from the gate while they are in line to take off? Why can’t they be at the gate while their turn in line is monitered?

  • Michael

    As a dispatcher for a major US carrier and a person who flies at least twice a week, I know that delays can be frustrating. We completely understand that passenger comfort is important and having an aircraft stand on the tarmac for more than an hour happens. But it’s something that passengers need to live and cope with. The pilots are doing the best they can. The air traffic controllers and schedulers are doing everything they can to get the airplane in the air and at its destination–not doing so means continued delays and a lot more cost to the airline and the airport. People need to be patient. I agree that 10 hours on the ground is absurd and something like that should never happen, but it really does happen very infrequently. It’s the media’s exploitation of these rare cases that causes so much unrest. I do think that airlines could do more in terms of compensation when passengers are so inconvenienced, but passengers need to exercise a bit of patience.

  • Keith

    The biggest problem seems to be that air traffic control will not grant a landing slot or a take off slot to a plane until it pushes away from the gate. This means that any problem that comes up getting those things, like bad weather or delays at the destination airport, or a long line of other planes waiting to take off, cause passengers to have to wait on the plane.

    The plane should be able to request these things before passengers start to board, and should be able to tell the controllers how long it takes to board the plane. Then when landing and take off slots are both available, the plane should be given permission to board and push away. This would shift the time people spend waiting around from the plane to the gate area.

    I don’t understand why it isn’t done this way.

  • Andy

    I am a frequent flier. I think airline passengers have the right to be taken to their destination in a safe and timely manner. Delays due to congestion are a fact of flying. The recent incident in Rochester was a lack of common sense.

  • Debra Licata

    Airline passengers deserve to have working toilets, up to date information on delays, and water to drink. They deserve to be protected from the sounds of screaming children (if it goes on and on and on), freedom from fear of encountering a furry creature if they have allergies …. and to be treated with respect and not have to sit for hours on the tarmac when they could be as easily “kept” secure in the airport. A secure area could be created easily in most airports for these situations.

    Just my opinion

  • Karl

    We were on a flight last Thursday that was delayed in Detroit – they did not tell us for an hour that it was overweight, then ended up calling the police to remove a passenger who resisted being selected at random to be removed. The rights we need are to current information and supervisory staff available with decision-making authority.

  • Ed

    From my reading of the above, there are some people who want their cake and eat it too. You want cheap flights, you get cheap service. There is not enough capacity for the demand, hence the pushed system has delays. People need to pay more for the upgrades or reduce the number of people flying.


    Cancel any flight that is 1-3 hours delayed without fees to re-schedule. No free hotels. No free tickets. Put up front in the ticket purchase agreement.

  • Clare

    Air travel is not a right.

    Laws and practices need to give consumers more power in this equation, though. And for sake of their business and for the access to air space and airport space, both airlines and the public entities around which they operate need to find a solution.

  • Anne

    Airline passengers deserve to know when airport construction will interfere with their flights before they are on the plane and/or stranded. We are informed of schedule changes. Why can’t we be informed ahead of time when a construction project will likely affect our trip? Then we should be allowed to change flights WITHOUT PENALTY to ensure we can make our destination. Currently these delays are coded as weather related. This is to the airline’s advantage since airline policy states they are under no obligation to passengers when interruptions are weather related. The reality is runway construction is the cause – airport operation — but the airports don’t want to be the cause either, because they would then be the source of many passengers getting refunds or changing tickets without penalties. Rectifying this situation could actually result in fewer passengers being stranded and finding themselves trapped either in planes or on buses for long periods of time. It is a long-overdue solution to a problem that is only increasing as our airport infrastructure ages.

  • lindsey

    I do agree that passengers should not be forced to sit on an aircraft for more than four hours and in many instances I feel that four hours is too long. (I would probably go insane claustrophobic).

    I would like to address the fact that most of the people posting comments have slim to no experience behind the scenes. It’s actually quite obvious. It is easy to make suggestions with out any knowledge of the complex and multifaceted order of operations that must be carried out.. especially in terms of safety and security.

    In respect to ‘holding’ passengers in the gate/secure area — this is not a very economic option. The gate that an aircraft is departing from is scheduled to have another plane in its place almost immediately after it is pushed away from the jet bridge. To keep passengers and an aircraft at one gate for a four hour time period (or any amount of time an aircraft may be delayed on the tarmac) is a huge expense.

    Yes, I said it “EXPENSE”.

    What everyone seems to forget is how expensive it is to operate an airline. As an airline employee I continually experience the same copmlaints:

    “the fares are too high” — ” I have to PAY for my seat?” — “you charge for checked luggage?” — “yeah, my bag is over 50lbs, and you want me to pay extra?” — “five dollars for a can of beer? and this mini bag of pretzels is my ‘meal’?”………..

    Everyone expects a twenty star treatment while paying the very least. My advice, next time you start to complain about an additional fee or the price of air fare — please consider the integrity of your aircraft. A new aircraft can cost as little as $120 million — and your money goes directly to aircraft maintenance and to pilots like Chesley Sullenburger.

    Passenger rights are a must ! But with all due respect — if you fuss and groan over paying $5 for a seat or an amenity, don’t expect to be flying in the Lamourghini of jets.

    Less complaining, more compliance!! Patience is a virtue friends.