Airplane Delays – Jet Blue Fiasco

Nov. 14th, 2011   /   , , , ,

Airplane Delays – Jet Blue Fiasco

We all remember the game “Seven Minutes in Heaven” from when we were children.  Well, now we’ve got “Seven Hours in Hell.”  More than one hundred people recently found out what that was like.

Last month, because of an unexpected snowstorm, many planes headed for Newark, New Jerseywere diverted to Hartford, Connecticut due to the dangerous conditions on the ground in New Jersey.  Among those planes was one whose flight originated in Fort Lauderdale, and the passengers on board that plane experienced something that has since made headlines around the world, sparking debates about corporate responsibility and legal liability.  The plane in question, part of Jet Blue’s fleet, spent more than SEVEN HOURS on the tarmac in Hartford, Connecticut.  Okay, maybe the word “hell” is a bit extreme when referring to the cabin of a major airliner.

But if “hell” is extreme, “uncomfortable” is undoubtedly an understatement.  Imagine being stuck in a hot plane for seven hours without access to running water or food (remember, they stopped offering that on planes!)  On top of that, the toilets stopped working.  Seven hours in a plane, on the ground, with an airport in sight, without food, water or toilet can really start getting to you.   Many of the passengers on board the flight felt as though they were being held prisoner.  The pilots on board the flight repeatedly asked for assistance from the airline and the airport officials, but to no avail.

Someone will be held accountable for this, but the money won’t be going to those who were, for all intents and purposes, held hostage by the finicky weather of the northeast.  No, the money will be going to the Department of Transportation which enacted a new policy last year mandating that if a plane is stuck on a tarmac for more than three hours at a given time, the airline will be fined $27,500 for each passenger on-board said flight.  Given that figure, Jet Blue is facing a possible fines totaling upwards of $3,000,000.

Jet Blue has since refunded the cost of the tickets to the passengers who were on the flight in question.  But can the passengers, who were deprived of basic necessities, sue the airline for something like pain and suffering?  No, they can’t.  The fine print on the back of every plane ticket is similar to that printed on the back of every sporting event ticket.  And the back of every credit card contract.  The fine print, translated into clear English, essentially prevents passengers from filing a lawsuit.  Once the ticket is purchased and you board the plane, you enter into the duty and care of the airline.

Furthermore, it is for just this reason that Jet Blue may have made the decision to keep passengers on the airplane rather than bring a ladder to the side of the plane and evacuate the men, women and children trapped inside.  If the passengers were stuck in the plane, at least Jet Blue knew that they were safe.  But if Jet Blue brought over a ladder, and in a rush to escape the plane one of the passengers slipped, Jet Blue could have been held responsible for any injuries incurred from that fall.

The new Department of Transportation policy which can lead to these types of fines only came about following another Jet Blue mishap in New York when passengers were left on a tarmac.  As Elton John once remarked, “I guess that’s why they call it the blues.”

If you have any questions or comments, please contact the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green at 561-266-9191 or email us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com.

 

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