Obama to Fine Airlines for Nightmarish Tarmac Delays

December 21, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The Obama administration announced on Monday, a new set of rules governing the growing problem of airline tarmac delays. While stopping short of a full passengers’ bill of rights, the new rules would subject airlines to significant fines for stranding passengers on planes for longer than three hours. The airlines would also be required to provide food and water within two hours of a tarmac delay.

After a series of recent nightmarish tarmac delays that garnered national attention, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said the Obama administration recognized the need for new measures to force airlines to stop abusing its passengers. “We think it’s the strongest message we can send, particularly at this time of the year, for passengers,” said LaHood.

As airlines try to cram as many flights as possible into tight schedules, with dwindling resources, tarmac delays have become commonplace. In a typical year, an average of 1,500 domestic flights experienced tarmac delays of three or more hours. For the month of June alone, there were 278 tarmac delays of 3 hours or more; the most in 2009.

The new rules will levy fines of $27,500 per passenger when airlines leave passengers on a plane, while on the ground, for more than three hours. The new rules would not apply to small commuter planes having less than 30 seats. It’s highly unusual for the Transportation Department to fine airlines, but the tarmac delays are rising to the level of putting passengers at risk.

The new measures also require airlines to make passengers comfortable when there are delays:

“On both domestic and overseas flights, U.S. airlines must provide adequate food and drinking water for passengers within two hours and maintain operable lavatories and, where necessary, provide medical attention.”

The rules would not apply specifically to international flights, but airlines flying internationally “must specify in advance their own time limits for deplaning passengers.” And if tarmac delays become a problem on international flights, the new rule would be expanded to cover those flights, according to LaHood.

An exception was written into the new rule to allow for “instances in which pilots and air-traffic controllers determined that tarmac delays were necessary for security or safety reasons.”

In August, Continental Express Flight 2816, bound from Houston to Minneapolis, was forced to land in Rochester, Minn. due to severe thunder storms. The 47 passengers were forced to spend the night on the regional aircraft and were not allowed to leave the plane and enter the terminal until 6:00 AM, nearly six hours later. There was only one working, smelly toilet that quickly filled to capacity and no food or water. Two babies on board cried throughout the night, and their parents quickly ran out of diapers during the 6-hour ordeal.

The inhuman conditions forced on the passengers by the airline made national headlines. And the Department of Transportation levied unprecedented fines against the airlines involved. Continental Airlines Inc. and ExpressJet Holdings Inc. were fined $50,000 each, and Mesaba Airlines was fined $75,000.

The new rules will take effect in 120 days.



3 Responses to “Obama to Fine Airlines for Nightmarish Tarmac Delays”

  1. Old Man Dotes on December 21st, 2009 5:32 pm

    A Boing 747 in typical three-class (Coach, Business, and First) can accomodate up to 416 passengers. That’s a whopping $11,440,000 fine if it’s delayed on the tarmac for over 3 hours.

    This MIGHT motivate some of the airlines to pull it out and treat passengers as what they are – paying customers.

    As for me, it’s too late – I will drive, take the train, or a ship to where I need to go, and the airlines can kiss my ass. I’m finished with paying to be abused by cretinous “security” goons.

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