Passengers Stuck on Runway Have No Recourse

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2009 12:52 PM CDT
In this Jan. 30, 2009 file photo, a Continental Airlines jet is wheeled on the tarmac at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.   (AP Photo/Robert Graves)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The passengers who spent 5.5 hours trapped inside a plane in Rochester, Minn., last weekend didn’t revolt. But if they had, they could have wound up in trouble with the law, USA Today reports. Federal aviation laws give airlines sole authority over whether passengers stay on a plane or get off—anyone attempting to disembark on their own could be slapped with a $25,000 fine.

More than 200,000 passengers have been stuck inside planes for 3 hours or more since 2007. “You are their property, and you have lost your rights inside the plane,” says one lawyer who was on that headline-grabbing flight from—theoretically—Houston to Minneapolis. But the incident has prompted a Transportation Department investigation, and it could lend momentum to the Passenger Bill of Rights legislation currently idling in Congress.