It is an ill wind that blows everybody off course, but then again someone’s always the beneficiary. Take for instance the push for airline passenger rights. The airlines just won a big victory, with federal court throwing out a New York State law that guaranteed food and water for passengers stranded on planes stuck on tarmacs. States can’t pass laws that tread on federal territory, said this ruling; if they could, one state might mandate gluten-free food on planes leaving its airports, and so on. This is called the 'crazy quilt work' theory, in which North Dakota says one thing and South Dakota another about a service or product that is a nationally offered. After all, what if every state had a law requiring airline flight attendants to smile?
The rights people, instead of retreating, took courage. If they don’t have to fight in eight or nine states, they can fight federally, said Kate Hanni, the Californian who has led the grassroots rights movement in the nation’s most activist state, wasn’t deterred. “This ruling is picture proof of why we need federal legislation. It only makes us stronger and our members more determined,” said Hanni. After all, now the fight can be waged in one place: congress. And her strongest allies in Congress – California Senator Barbara Boxer and Maine’s Olympia Snowe, a Democrat and a Republican, said they would be fighting for this as well. They ahve been backinga fedeol measure snce the jetblue debacle of winter 2007 (See a passenger snapshot of folks on a JetBlue plane during the stranding).So the question becomes one of lobbying: the airlines and the advocate are now in a one-stop shopping mode, rather than having to “persuade” legislators in 49 or 50 state capitals. Who do we put our money on?