Good news for travelers: Long tarmac delays drop
June 7, 2011
• Dramatic decline after feds impose fines
• ‘Virtually eliminating the number of aircraft leaving travelers stranded’
During the first 12 months after a new rule limiting airline tarmac delays went into effect, lengthy delays experienced by passengers aboard aircraft largely disappeared and only a minimal number of flights were canceled to avoid delays on the tarmac, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says Tuersday.
“We’ve accomplished our goal of virtually eliminating the number of aircraft leaving travelers stranded without access to food, water, or working lavatories for hours on end,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This is a giant step forward for the rights of air travelers.”
According to DOT’s Air Travel Consumer Report, there were only 20 total tarmac delays of more than three hours reported from May 2010 through April 2011 by the airlines that file on-time performance data with DOT, compared to 693 reported from May 2009 through April 2010. April was the 12th full month of data since the new rule went into effect on April 29, 2010.
At the same time, the number of canceled flights with tarmac delays of more than two hours – those most likely to be canceled to avoid violating the rule – increased only slightly, from 336 between May 2009 and April 2010 to 387 between May 2010 and April 2011, the government says. These additional 51 cancellations compare to over 6 million flights operated by the reporting carriers in a given year.
The rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from allowing an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without providing an opportunity for passengers to get off the plane, 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.
International flights of both U.S. and foreign carriers at U.S. airports will be subject to a four-hour tarmac delay limit beginning Aug. 23.