Airline customers: Passengers or prisoners?

On Wednesday, the White House launched an investigation of a Continental Express flight that stranded passengers on the ground for several hours last week. As the oddly-familiar incident has gained news traction, it has reignited a debate about how airlines should be required to treat passengers.

Here are the details: On Friday, August 7, Continental Express Flight 2816 left Houston, Texas at 9:23 PM. En route to Minneapolis, the flight was diverted to Rochester, Minnesota because of severe thunderstorms. At midnight, the plane was offered access to a bus that would take the passengers the final 85 miles to Minneapolis. Flight dispatchers refused, stating that they planned to wait until the storms cleared. For the next six hours, the passengers remained on the plane as food and water ran out and the toilets jammed and overflowed. At 6:00 am, they were allowed to go into the airport at Rochester. Two and a half hours later, the plane took off and finally arrived in Minneapolis at 9:30, more than 12 hours after leaving on a 2.5 hour flight.