December 30, 2009

Tarmac delay rule announced

The DOT recently released new rules so that planes waiting for long intervals on the tarmac must return to the gate before three hours time. Airlines that do not comply or that fail to provide water and food to Customers after two hours will be fined upwards of $27,000 per person on board (that’s $4 million for a sold-out A320!). This will go into effect in 120 days.

The new rule may very well lead to, “unintended consequences,” the ATA said in a statement issued shortly after the DOT announcement. The ATA said that,

“the requirement of having planes return to the gates within a three hour window or face significant fines is inconsistent with our goal of completing as many flights as possible.”

Everyone — Crewmembers and Customers alike — agrees that tarmac delays are undesirable. The Wall Street Journal reported that, “problems are exacerbated by the paleolithic U.S. air traffic control system.” The government is operating an antiquated system that is woefully underfunded. Problems like tarmac delays would be minimized significantly if air traffic control updated their system to reflect current technological capabilities.

Paul Thorton of the L.A. Times agrees with everyone when he says that, “forcing passengers to stew for several hours, sometimes overnight, while the plane waits in vain for a takeoff slot is unacceptable,” but brings into question the brevity of the issue and whether Washington should have been brought into the discussion.

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