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So Sue Me

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I suppose I’m the only person in America who isn’t fawning over Kate Hanni, the godmother of the airline “passenger’s bill of rights” movement.

When I interviewed her on my radio show yesterday to get her reaction to a court ruling striking down her attempts to mandate a state law that gives passengers guaranteed water, food, and working toilets in the event of a lengthy delay, it didn’t really go very well. I guess she thought I would share her frustration that her efforts were overturned by the court.


She seemed quite surprised that I didn’t. Because I think an effort to create a state law to form a passenger’s bill of rights on an airplane is a terrible idea.

Allow me to explain why.

Slowly but surely, there is a mindset developing in our country that if life deals us an unexpected challenge or obstacle, somebody better pay. We are an impatient society that demands instant gratification. And if a business doesn’t make something right for us, then we’d better by-God get the government to do so. Attorneys circle like vultures, waiting for the next big payday.

Just this week it was announced that Virginia Tech University is offering $100,000 to each of the families of those tragic souls who were slaughtered in the Virginia Tech massacre in an effort to thwart any and all lawsuits that the families might file against the school or the state of Virginia.

Think about that for a moment: it is so inevitable that families of victims killed by a madman are going to sue the deep-pocketed state or university that they have to offer a pre-emptive payment.

Why in the world should the state of Virginia be financially responsible for the actions of a lone nut with a gun?

That’s easy. Because our tort reform-challenged culture allowed it to happen. Some evil terrorists kill thousands on 9/11 and Congress creates a multi-billion dollar victims compensation fund, again, so the surviving family members won’t sue anybody.


The airline passenger’s bill of rights has the same undercurrent of entitlement. Kate Hanni was once a stranded passenger who was so irate about her experience that she began this movement.

And it sure sounds great, doesn’t it? Who could object to passengers stuck on an airplane being guaranteed water or working toilets? All of us who have ever been delayed by bad weather or a back-up can appreciate the effort.

But if one looks at the big picture with a little bit of logic, one sees the perils of expecting the government to cure all that ails us. In the case of the airline passenger bill of rights, the courts recognized that if one particular state can mandate things like drinking water and peanuts on a stranded airplane, other states can jump in and demand a certain brand of beverage or a sodium-free diet.

Besides, air travel service is the purview of the federal government, not individual states.

But since this is such an emotionally-charged topic, it’ll probably just be a matter of time before some grandstanding, pandering politician on the federal level will hop on this bandwagon and we’ll be stuck with yet another set of federal laws that regulate how many quarts of water we’re guaranteed on a stranded airplane.

Incidentally, applying common sense to this issue would lead us to remember that flight attendants, pilots and co-pilots don’t want to be stuck in the plane any more than the passengers do. And the airlines don’t make any money with a plane stuck on a runway for hours. They make money in the air.


But stuff happens. Things go wrong. Thunderstorms create back-ups, giant jets can’t easily maneuver in and out of a gate like we park our car in the garage. People expect the airlines to get us from point a to point b, even in challenging conditions.

And a so-called passengers bill of rights isn’t going to change any of that.

This is the typical liberal approach to doing things.

Don’t believe me? Let me take you back to the Kate Hanni radio interview this week on my show. One of the first things the architect of the passengers bill of rights movement said to me was that she was encouraged early on by the court deliberations because a “good liberal judge” was asking all the right questions. Surprised, I asked her, “You mean as opposed to all the other evil conservative judges?” “Exactly!” she replied.

The interview went downhill from there.

I later read that Kate makes her home in the California wine country. I can almost picture her sipping a glass of red wine, eating some expensive French cheese, and trying to figure out new ways to create more layers of state and federal government bureaucracy that would keep us knee deep in bottles of Perrier and Ritz crackers on a Boeing 757.

I don’t like the idea of a single person being stuck on an airplane any more than Kate Hanni does. I truly understand the concerns about pregnant women or elderly people who feel quite literally imprisoned on a delayed flight sitting on the tarmac. I have a son who is a diabetic and the idea of him being without insulin, food or water for hours terrifies me.


That’s why his mother and I always remind him to bring plenty of snacks and bottled water with him on every flight he takes, as well as his insulin. Just like a seasoned motorist in winter conditions knows to have sand, a shovel and other life-saving items in the trunk, we all need to go to the airport expecting the best but preparing for the worst.

Most importantly, no airline in the United States should be forced by more laws to do what they should be doing in the first place.

You want a guarantee that nothing will go wrong during your next flight?

Take a bus.


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