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Airline Travelers’ Bill of Rights Overturned on Appeal. You Will Stay in Your Seat and Like It, Hear?

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Photo: iStockPhoto

We should all just go back to riding around on donkeys, honestly. A New York appellate court has rejected the state's right to penalize airlines for not giving enough fresh air or water to passengers stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours. Also rejected? Mandatory working restrooms and power. Does anyone remember the days when flying was glamorous and flight attendants had stylish lives everyone envied? Did anyone watch Catch Me If You Can with an anthropological curiosity appropriate to studying oh, say, the Mayans? Nowadays most people would rather test out their caskets than sit in the middle seat in coach. Hey, at least you'd have it to yourself — no halitosis-ridden blabbermouth on your left or teensy-bladdered prima donna on your right. Can you tell we're not exactly enamored of air travel? (Once they stopped giving us wings pins, we just lost heart.) There is actually a rationale behind today's decision to kill the passengers' bill of rights, upheld earlier by a federal judge, but it's just sort of silly.

The airlines are federally regulated, and they'd like it to stay that way, worrying that a "patchwork of laws by states and localities would be impractical and harmful to consumer interests," according to the Air Transport Association.

It's not hard to see the potential headache were individual states allowed to make up their own rules about air travel minutiae like flight-attendant fashion or beverage choice ("This is your captain speaking, we're flying over Provo, Utah, please dump your Bloody Marys, ladies and gentlemen — toot sweet.")

In its decision today, the court wrote that “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."

We're pretty sure soda and allergen-free food options couldn't bring down the airline industry or the constitution. Regardless, can't we all find some common ground on water and bathrooms? Even Federalists have to pee. —Maggie Shnayerson

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