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Airlines the new “prison wardens”

A record number of delayed American Airlines flights prompted a lawsuit from two passengers who were kept aboard their planes for more than nine hours.

Their claim is for compensation for being “imprisoned against their will.”

The two passengers, Kathleen Hanni of Napa, Calif., and Catherine Ray of Fayetteville, Ark., want courts to certify the cases as class actions covering thousands of passengers stranded on American flights when severe weather temporarily shut Dallas/Fort Worth airport last month, said the AP.

The complaints allege passengers suffered hunger, thirst, illness, emotional distress and financial losses when American failed to supply the planes with food or water, empty the toilets or let passengers off. The plans were delayed by a severe snowstorm.

The complaints were filed in state courts last week in Napa and Fayetteville.

American spokesman John Hotard declined to comment on the complaints, saying he had not seen them. He noted that since December 2006, American has implemented new procedures designed to prevent recurrences.

“That was our largest weather disruption, ever, and we handled it the best we could,” he said. “I think we have fixed the problem and lawsuits are not necessary.”

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