Over the last year, Minnesota experienced more than its fair share of airline safety incidents. Passengers at the Rochester airport were forced to remain overnight on a small jet plane without food. The passengers were finally allowed to deplane after six hours on the tarmac. Then a flight destined for Minneapolis-St. Paul flew 150 miles past the airport. The pilots, who did not respond to radio calls for 91 minutes, claimed they were distracted by working on their computers. Senator Franken was severely alarmed by these incidents. On both occasions he was in direct communication with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, urging that serious actions be taken to ensure these lapses in judgment did not occur again.
Senator Franken joined Senators Klobuchar and Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, in introducing the Distracted Flying Act, to prohibit the use of personal wireless communication devices by the flight crew while operating commercial aircraft.
Following Senator Franken’s call to action, Secretary LaHood announced a new rule that establishes a three hour time limit after which U.S. airlines must allow passengers to deplane from domestic flights. Airline carriers are now required to provide adequate food and drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.