Commentary: Air travelers deserve legal rights

The miserable night 47 unlucky passengers spent in a cramped airplane at an airport in Rochester, Minn., last Friday makes the case yet again for the need for a law establishing passengers' rights while traveling.

Bad luck mixed with bad choices to set up this nightmare. Continental Airlines Flight 2816 was forced to land in Rochester around midnight Friday to refuel. At the same time, the flight crew had reached its maximum work hours in the air, so another crew had to be flown in, which meant a long delay on the ground.

But ExpressJet Airlines, which operated the Continental flight, refused to let passengers off the plane because the Transportation Safety Administration screeners had gone home. Legally, disembarking passengers wouldn't have been able to reboard the plane without going through security again.

Still, how about letting passengers make their own call on whether to disembark and wait for another flight?

To read the complete editorial, visit miamiherald.com.