New Year’s Resolutions
The National Conference of State Legislatures announced yesterday that 31 states will be unveiling or enacting new laws this week to ring in the New Year.
My least favorite among the bunch is New York’s “Passenger Bill of Rights,” which stems from JetBlue’s infamous flight that spent 10 hours on the Kennedy tarmac during a February ice storm.
Governments insist on being both retroactive and heavy-handed when addressing hot-button issues each year. Yes, JetBlue’s debacle was inexcusable. But you know what does a great job of addressing consumer concerns? The free market.
JetBlue introduced its own passenger bill of rights immediately following the 10-hour ordeal (and 10 months before New York’s legislation took effect) in reaction to consumer demand. And the market punished JetBlue for its ineptness when JetBlue’s stock (JBLU, NASDAQ) lost nearly two-thirds of its value in 2007, in large part driven by the company’s negative publicity.
But why would the government care about letting the market regulate itself when there’s a nice opportunity for a "consumer rights" sound bite to be made for the next election? And one more regulatory burden means more power for some New York bureaucrat.
A passenger bill of rights poses three immediate problems: 1) it increases the amount of red tape that exists in an already over-regulated industry that is prone to frequent delays and staffing shortages; 2) it sets the groundwork for a federal airline bill of rights, introducing (or ignoring) several constitutional issues; and, 3) it opens the door for umpteen lawsuits for violations of "passenger rights" (whatever those may be).
The bill’s sponsor, Charles Fuschillo, believes his legislation is a great step forward. As he states in USA Today‘s coverage of the issue, “(I hope it) wakes up Congress that this should be done on a national level.”
Sorry, Chuck, but I hope it doesn’t.