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Panel balks at rules on stranded travelers

Associated Press / November 12, 2008
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WASHINGTON - A federal task force that spent nearly a year wrestling with ways to assist people delayed for hours aboard planes parked on the tarmac has finalized its recommendations - none of which would require airlines or airports to do anything.

The task force is expected to vote today on guidelines for airlines and airports on how to craft their own contingency plans.

Among the problems: The task force was unable to agree on whether lengthy is one hour, two hours, or 10 hours.

Kate Hanni, a task force member and passenger rights advocate, said there is nothing in the draft document that would require airlines or airports to provide additional services for stranded passengers.

Task force members said it quickly became apparent that the group - dominated by airline industry and airport representatives - would be unable to come up with a plan acceptable to a majority of members.

"The airlines don't want it, and the airports - several of them major airports - believe they already have plans" to deal with passengers stuck aboard aircraft, said task force member Paul Ruden, a senior vice president at the American Society of Travel Agents.

The Air Transport Association, an industry group, said the task force achieved its objective and some recommendations are being adopted. One recommendation was that airlines should make "every reasonable effort" to keep restrooms usable.

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