An Arkansas judge dismissed a case against American Airlines filed by a passenger who was stuck on the tarmac in Austin, Texas, for more than 9 hours back in 2006. The passenger had filed a claim of false imprisonment, and while the judge had sympathy for the passenger, he said the case didn’t meet the definition of that charge.
The key part of this is that the airline told passengers they could get off the plane if they wanted to (doesn’t quite sound like imprisonment), though they added that passengers would be “on their own” if they left the aircraft. The plaintiff added that she felt claustrophobic (really? in coach?) and had an upset stomach the next day (really? after 9 1/2 hours on a plane?). Oh, she added that the upset stomach was likely caused by her not being able to wash her hands after going to the bathroom because the water had run out. Right.
I can’t imagine how miserable it was being stuck on that plane, but this case had zero merit. And as much as legislation against this type of thing may seem like an obvious solution, it will cause far, far more problems than it solves.
Airlines have cleaned up their acts when it comes to looooon tarmac delays since the JetBlue snowstorm disaster a couple of February’s ago. Airlines are quick to allow you to change your flight when a storm is coming, and they now give ample warning for those changes. Plus, they’re being much more conservative about canceling flights when big storms are coming. This has done more to improve the customer experience than any piece of legislation would.
I’m hardly apologizing for the airlines, which have done a miserable job apologizing for these types of events. But let’s be realistic – legislation won’t solve the problem.