Sitting in coach on a crowded airplane can be a challenge at the best of times, but on Dec. 29, the wait on American Airlines flight 13-48 was all but unbearable.
For nearly 10 hours, Kate Hanni was trapped among a plane-load of passengers parked alongside a runway with little food and nowhere to go.
On Saturday's "Good Morning America Weekend Edition," Hanni described the scene.
"We were on the plane for 10 hours on the tarmac with overflowing toilets and the pilot begging for a gate," she said.
American Airlines officials said bad weather was to blame. In a statement, they said they "have apologized to customers" and offered them vouchers.
But industry insiders said the situation should never have gotten that bad, especially since the creation of a new, FAA customer advocate program specifically-designed to deal with such problems.
"When a flight is diverted or when you have a medical emergency on board or something else that really throws the situation off, we expect to hear from those flights and we are going to try to move them to the beginning of the queue," said Marion Blakey, an FAA administrator.
American Airlines officials apparently never called for assistance. Hanni said that even after she and the other passengers finally got off the plane, no one offered them an apology, assistance or food."
"Nothing happened immediately after this flight. No one received compensation or a letter or an apology," she said.
Making Passengers' Rights a Law
It's not the first time a travel nightmare like this has left hundreds without food, bathrooms, or a chance to escape. Hanni says she's had enough, and has started a grass-roots campaign with others on her flight for a national passengers' bill of rights.
Hanni's proposed bill of rights would establish procedures for airlines to return passengers to the gate within three hours, provide them with food, water and bathrooms for delays over three hours, and refund 150-percent of the ticket price to those delayed more than 12 hours.
"My goal is to get this legislated," she said. "The two times they were supposed to get this legislated, they got the airlines to make all these promises, but those promises never came."
Previous attempts to enact legislation in this country have remained grounded, but Hanni's hoping her efforts take off. She said that even people in the airline industry are behind her.
"I've had several stewardesses stop me and say … 'We are tired of having to lie to the passengers,'" she said. "Enough is enough."