Will The New Airline "Passenger Bill Of Rights" Help?

Today, the Obama administration addressed a serious problem plaguing America. No, it wasn't heath care. It wasn't the banking system. It wasn't 10% unemployment. It wasn't global warming. It wasn't even college football's championship methodology. No, it was something far more serious than any of that: airline passengers getting stuck for too long on the runway. It's nice to see the administration has its priorities straight, because that's definitely one of the most serious problems plaguing America today. What's worse: its proposed remedy doesn't give consumers justice but lines its own pockets.

Here's the Associated Press with the news:

The Obama administration took aim Monday at tarmac horror stories, ordering airlines to let passengers stuck in stranded airplanes to disembark after three hours.

Under the new regulations, airlines operating domestic flights will be able only to keep passengers on board for three hours before they must be allowed to disembark a delayed flight. The regulation provides exceptions only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.

And what if the airlines disobey?

Under the new regulations, airlines would be fined $27,500 per passenger for each violation of the three-hour limit, LaHood said.

Now listen: certainly, I'd be happy not to be stuck on the runway for three or more hours. But if I am, I'll hardly feel better knowing that Uncle Sam is collecting $27,500 thanks to my suffering. How about, instead, refunding the price of my ticket? After all, I'm the one who deserves some compensation for the pain inflicted -- not the federal government.

And while this rule sounds great from the standpoint of the few who get stuck on the runway, it's probably bad for everyone else. It will make delays even worse and ticket prices more expensive. The very reason why an airline would leave a jet on the runway for that long is because it doesn't have a gate to accommodate the plane. If it left the jet at the gate, then that would delay other flights that can't use it. I'm not saying that makes those passengers stuck on the runway feel any better, but the reality is that it will make delays worse if airports don't have that option. If they need to buy more gates at airports as cushion, then that will just make flying more expensive.

In the press release, the Department of Transportation lists a few other changes also in this so-called "passenger bill of rights" (politicians like calling things "bills of rights," because people like hearing that they're getting more rights). Here's a fun one:

Prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those who do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices

This just in: O'Hare Airport is closing because it can no longer schedule any flights there due to this new regulation. I'm joking. I think?