While no one including airlines wants to be inconvenienced by airline delays, creating a “Passengers Bill of Rights” does not solve the problem or address the real issues.
As an employee of a major airline and having worked in the airline industry for over fifteen years, I believe the situation requires both a long term solution with immediate stop gap measures.
An immediate first step stop gap is for The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to restrict arrivals and departures into high density airports at peak times. This can be done without sacrificing seat capacity if airlines adjust their schedule frequency and equipment on certain routes.
Secondly, with major weather events or air traffic control problems, passengers should not be allowed to board an aircraft unless air traffic control (FAA/ATC) can guarantee an airborne departure within one hour. A form of this is currently done at most high density airports through a flow control program but in light of the new legislation it needs to be enhanced.
Since the 3 hour time limitation does not begin until the aircraft physically leaves the gate. Early boarding can cause passengers to be on the airplane a lot longer than 3 hours. Again, the 3 hour limitation DOES NOT GO INTO AFFECT UNTIL THE AIRPLANE LEAVES THE GATE.
With airlines facing stiff fines of almost $4 million dollars for a delayed airplane with 148 passengers. Most airlines will return to the gate after 2 hours of weather or ATC delays, no matter how close they are to takeoff. Unfortunately, depending on your crew’s (FEDERALLY MANDATED) limitation on working hours and rest requirements, for your safety your flight might be canceled.
It is naive for politicians or others to think that airlines purposefully inconvenience and/or mistreat their passengers, we are all aware that no one wins if this happens.
Therefore, it is also in our best interest to get you to your destination on time.
My airline with hundreds of flights a day has it's share of delays and operational issues but it is ridiculous to expect it to pay more than a hundred times the price of an average ticket for delays that are beyond it's control.
From my experience, you ultimately get to your destination faster on bad weather days or with air traffic control delays by being on the airplane in an active takeoff sequence.
However, to keep the politicians happy and the airlines from paying million dollar plus in fines the norm will be a gate return. Your delay may be longer than 3 hours waiting inside the terminal or having your flight ultimately canceled. This is part of your rights and the airlines will not be punished as long as your delay is not in an airplane.