California Assembly seeks rights for airline passengers

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO, 1:22 PM -- Passengers stuck on grounded airplanes for more than three hours would get fresh air, electricity, working restrooms, food and water under a measure passed today by the state Assembly.

Legislators of all political stripes, some of whom commute six times a week by commercial airlines, passed the bill with hearty support, even though Republican legislators had been advised by their staffs to oppose it.

“This is a time when we need to spank the airlines,” said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R- Lake Elsinore).

The measure, AB 1943 by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), passed 57-17 and goes next to the Senate.

Leno modeled his legislation after a 2007 New York law. Several other states are considering similar measures.

The Air Transport Assn. of America, which represents most major domestic airlines, successfully sued to block the New York law from taking effect. The group may do the same if the California measure is enacted, spokesman David A. Castelveter said.

“We will not rule out our right to a legal challenge,” he said, explaining that the association contests “the rights of states to legislate airline customer service.”