Wronging Passengers With a Bill of Rights

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Having trashed the Bill of Rights at airports (and everywhere else, for that matter), Our Rulers hope to palm off a parody on us: the "Passengers’ Bill of Rights." They’re using the Valentine’s Day fiasco at JFK International Airport as cover.

While ice and snow pelted New York City last Wednesday, passengers crammed aboard JetBlue planes waited for take off. They sat…and sat….and sat. Nor did the airline allow them to disembark because the executives who decide such things gambled that the storm would soon end. They were wrong. Some victims languished for as long as ten hours in the airless cabins. What else could they do? Anyone who insisted on relief, especially in loud or impatient tones, or who tried to escape JetBlue’s prison might well be arrested under 49 USC sect. 46504 for "interfering with a flight crew."

Airlines no longer even pretend to care about customers’ comfort or convenience. From refusing to refund our unused tickets to their authoritarian flight crews, airlines turn the exhilarating, nigh mystical experience of zooming above the clouds into traumatic drudgery. They thrive despite their abuse because the Feds subsidize them with the taxes they steal from us while extinguishing the freedom in which courtesy and humanity flourish.

And so we have passengers trapped aboard planes for what surely seemed an eternity. “You gotta realize the frustration," said one who endured JetBlue’s purgatory for nine hours. "You can look out the window and you can see, there’s the gate, and if you let us off the plane, we can walk there.”

Along comes Congress, capitalizing on all this misery. These charlatans are threatening investigations and hearings in the hope that citizens stupid enough to vote for them are stupid enough to believe that this defends us from big, bad corporations. In reality, Congressmen are the best friends an airline can buy. The Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar (D-Minn), may have condemned JetBlue’s actions as “just unconscionable," but over the course of his 17 years in DC, he’s taken $1,493,615 from "Transportation Unions" and "Air Transport" interests. At the House Aviation Subcommittee, Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill) sniffed that because of similar snafus during the holidays, the aviation "industry has two strikes against it. The third strike will mean Congress considers legislation [sic for u2018more legislation' since laws already govern virtually all aspects of commercial flight]…" Reflecting his lesser influence on a mere subcommittee, Jerry has received only $491,300 from the same "transportation" interests during his career as the public’s servant.

In contrast, passengers have given neither man a dime. Except, of course, for the taxes that support these leeches, their families, their offices, their staffs, and their egos.

Ironically, the Congress crying crocodile tears over passengers’ plight continues to authorize the bureaucracies responsible. Abolishing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would instantly halt the industry’s bribes — sorry, campaign contributions even as it restored power to passengers. But who wants that? Certainly not the airlines, who would far rather kowtow to the Feds than to customers. Pleasing customers means working your tail off on routes and schedules they want at prices they’ll pay, all with a smile and a "Thank you!" It’s far easier to pay off the Feds, who earn their take with subsidies and with regulations that stifle competition. Ergo, we will be forever saddled with both the FAA and the TSA.

As well as with the posturing of blowhards such as Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif). Surveying JetBlue’s stranded passengers, she huffed, "No one should be held hostage on an aircraft.” Yo, Babs: tell that to your buddies at the TSA. Meanwhile, she’s sponsoring a "Passengers’ Bill of Rights." But "Bill" is hardly her brainchild, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron. Rather, the airlines’ outraged victims have pushed various versions for years. Bab’s less generous rendition apparently kicks in when we actually set foot on the plane. Until then, passengers are at the mercy of the TSA.

Not that it matters: why would the TSA honor a bogus bill of rights given the devastation its airport checkpoints have wreaked on the real thing? The TSA voids the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech ("…it’s against the law to make threats such as, u2018I have a bomb in my bag.’ Threats made jokingly [even by a child] can delay the entire family and could result in fines"). Ditto to the Second Amendment’s promise of self-defense ("Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts are prohibited from carry-on baggage"). It mocks the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable and warrantless searches ("Everyone who travels by air goes through airport security checkpoints [i.e., is searched]. … Not only do all passengers go through checkpoints, their checked baggage is also screened [searched]). It scorns the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on "depriv[ing]" anyone "of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" ("All liquids, gels and aerosols must be in three-ounce or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or toothpaste tubes rolled up are not allowed"). Forget the Eighth Amendment’s taboo on excessive fines ("TSA recognizes that most passengers who carry prohibited items do so without any ill intent. … [But that innocence doesn't faze Our Rulers.] Fines… may be imposed when passengers attempt to artfully conceal prohibited items or behave in a manner that is so uncooperative and disruptive that it physically interferes with the screening process. …of…up to $10,000 per violation…"). Why the Founding Fathers wasted their time protecting our overall liberty with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments is anyone’s guess ("The Aviation and Transportation Security Act, passed by the 107th Congress on November 19, 2001, established [the TSA] … a new federal agency with responsibility for security for all modes of transportation…").

A "Passengers’ Bill of Rights"? Yep, those are guffaws you hear from Congress and the airlines.

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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