Rise in Airport Tarmac Strandings and ‘Callous Disregard’ for Passengers

August 27, 2009

(ChattahBox)—With yet another horrific tale this month of airline passengers stranded for hours on an airport tarmac, just a few feet away from the freedom and comfort of the airport terminal, passengers are demanding an enactment of an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights.

The bill protecting airline passengers is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe and would force airlines to offer passengers the option of getting off after three hours on the tarmac, and to supply food, water and adequate restrooms during long delays.

With fewer flights due to the poor economy and a decline in airport travel, airlines are loath to cancel a flight and tarmac delays have increased. For the month of June alone, there were 278 tarmac delays of 3 hours or more; the most this year.

The tarmac delay of Continental Express Flight 2816 was more severe than usual and exposed an airline industry that has little regard for its passengers. Continental Express Flight 2816 left Houston at 9:23 PM on Aug. 7, scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis by midnight. But severe thunderstorms forced the plane to Rochester, where it landed about 12:30 AM

The 47 passengers were forced to spend the night on the tiny regional aircraft and were not allowed to leave the plane and enter the terminal until 6:00 AM, nearly six hours later. The conditions on the airplane bordered on the inhumane, with only one working, smelly toilet that quickly filled to capacity and no food or water. Two babies on board cried throughout the night, as their parents quickly ran out of diapers during the 6-hour ordeal.

The Flight 2816 delay is currently under investigation by the Obama administration, conducted by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Recordings released of the conversations between the captain, dispatcher and staff for another airline at the Rochester, Minn., airport exposed a complete breakdown with how airport staff handled the delay.

Despite pleading from the captain and dispatchers, Mesaba Airlines, the only employees at the airport at the time, refused to allow the passengers to deplane, because the terminal was locked with no security personal on site. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “There was a complete lack of common sense here.” “It’s no wonder the flying public is so angry and frustrated,” added LaHood.

For their ordeal, the passengers of Continental Express Flight 2816 were given a refund for the flight, a $200 travel voucher and a $50 American Express Gift Card, but the passengers would like an assurance that such an incident would not occur again.

And according to airline passenger rights activist, Kate Hanni, the founder of FlyersRights.org, the only way to ensure passengers are not inhumanely stranded on a tarmac in the future, is to fight to enact the Passengers Bill of Rights.

“Congress has a responsibility to the American people to ensure there is some level of accountability, some minimum standard in place,” said Sen. Snowe. So far, the airline industry and its powerful lobbyists have blocked previous attempts at passenger rights legislation.

A recent article by the Associated Press, provided the airline’s position on tarmac delays, noting there is no law or rule restricting the amount of time an airline can keep passengers on planes and in cases of weather beyond the airline’s control, passengers are not entitled to compensation.

The experts in the AP article advised passengers to prepare for a tarmac delay by bringing plenty of extra food and water and to use their cell phones to complain to customer service if they are stranded for hours on end. The experts cautioned passengers not to get unruly or try to leave.

“It’s not a democracy,” says Robert Mann, an airline industry consultant.

In the 21st century, passengers should be afforded basic legal protections from abuse and inhumane treatment by the airlines. Left on their own, the airlines have refused to protect its passengers, instead showing a “callous disregard” for their safety and comfort, according to Kate Hanni.

It’s high time Congress start representing the rights of passengers and stop caving in to pressure from the industry.


3 Responses to “Rise in Airport Tarmac Strandings and ‘Callous Disregard’ for Passengers”

  1. Old Man Dotes on August 27th, 2009 2:59 pm

    I simply will not fly anywhere any more if it’s not required for business; between 1969 and 2001, I loved flying, it was an enjoyable way to travel. Then G.W. Bush implemented the Department of Fatherland Security, I mean, DHS, and amde flying a painful, humiliating ordeal. This is what I get for my 23 years of faithful military service? No thank you!

    The airlines can all go to Hell. I’ll drive, or take the train, or just stay home and save the money.

  2. Obama to Fine Airlines for Nightmarish Tarmac Delays | ChattahBox News Blog on December 21st, 2009 5:07 pm

    […] to Minneapolis, was forced to land in Rochester 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 […]

  3. You Wait, they Pay…Airline tarmac camping « The Art of Corporate Travel on December 21st, 2009 5:16 pm

    […] 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 […]

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