Monday, December 21, 2009

Three Hours or Else

The Department of Transportation has announced that airlines may not keep passengers out on the tarmac for more than three hours.  See Devin Dwyer, Tarmac Delays Get Three Hour Limit in DOT Airline Crackdown, ABC News, Dec. 21, 2009 (available here).  The rule is limited to domestic flights only, however.  According to the DOT:

The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. U.S. carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers, with the same exceptions applicable.

Carriers are required to provide adequate food and potable 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.

. . .

The rule also:

• Prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those who do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices;
• Requires airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations, respond in a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints and provide information to consumers on where to file complaints;
• Requires airlines to display on their website flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate;
• Requires airlines to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and
• Prohibits airlines from retroactively applying material changes to their contracts of carriage that could have a negative impact on consumers who already have purchased tickets.

See Dept. of Transp., New DOT Consumer Rule Limits Airline Tarmac Delays, Provides Other Passenger Protections, DOT 199-09 (Dec. 21, 2009) (available here).

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Seems like the exceptions will easily swallow the rule. I'm sure that pulling a plane out of line up in the tarmac or sending out a vehicle to pick up a passenger who wants off of a plane on the tarmac would always pose a "safety or security" problem and would always "disrupt airport operations." Plus how is it at all reasonable to make people sit on a plane on a tarmac for up to 3 hours? Doesn't seemm like this rule is going to do passengers any good at all.

Posted by: fredderf | Dec 30, 2009 6:46:48 AM

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