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6/2/2010 15:05

I do not think that airlines should be telling passengers that they can deplane from the aircraft if the door is open. This will create absolute chaos as people will be getting up and getting off if there is a short delay and may even interrupt a plane’s ability to get in line for takeoff if a takeoff slot suddenly becomes open. The operational headaches for the airline will be even worse because the airline would then have the responsibility to rebook these people. People just need to take a chill pill and sit in their seats with a good book. Maybe if the airline has sat at the gate for over 2hrs, some sort of announcement should be made, but not before.

    6/2/2010 21:54

    I disagree. There are health concerns, physical as well as mental. It could be required that if a passenger chooses to deplane, they can not reboard until called to do so, this way they would be confined to the gate area but could walk around, relieve themselves and ward off back problems, deep vein thrombosis any number of relevant and probably health concerns.

6/2/2010 20:23

Oops. Some people used the Site FEEDBACK button for their comments. Sorry about the confusion.

Here’s a comment left there by an unidentified participant. (If you submitted this comment and want to have it posted under your user name, contact us.)

Yes finally I have been doing this flying to and from for three years. This is one of the best things that DOT has done in the past three months. I was stuck on a flight for three hours on the tarmac while it was thunder and lighting just sitting. Why now finally something has been done. So little so late for me. But I guess it better late than never.

6/2/2010 21:51

(1) Size of aircraft should be irrelevant. I was trapped on a very small (approx 21 passengers) aircraft, in the hot summer sun, for hours, with no ventilation. Outrageous! Being cooked in a small tin can is no better than being cooked in a big one!

    7/10/2010 15:05

    As a parent of preschoolers I am very concerned about Tarmac delays. I do not want to be trapped in a plane with my children (and neither does anyone else). Children do not understand security threats or delays. They have needs that must be met. I hope their rights are represented as well. I appended my comment here because it does not matter the size of the plane. It just matters if a person has their liberty restricted for some arbitrary reason. The airlines have a responsibility to their passengers by boarding a place I am not giving up my welfare. I am simply agreeing to fly. If that is not possible, then let me deplane and in the meantime keep the environment comfortable.

    7/10/2010 16:19

    Thank you for your comment kerryk. You raise an interesting point that not all travelers can be treated equally. Do you, or any other posters, have any suggestions as to what can be done to better accommodate younger passengers?

    7/16/2010 17:26

    No matter our age, when we’re stuck on the tarmac for more than an hour, we’re being treated like preschoolers, with no control over what’s happening to us. Some of us older folk need to use bathrooms, too. They must be kept clean and in working order.

6/2/2010 21:51

I agree with all the measures that DOT is taking in regard to airline passenger rights. Thank you. I would like to add that airports should also have contingency plans, if they do not then anytime there is a delay allowing for passengers to deplane will be disrutpive and would then not be required.
The size of the plane or number of seats should not matter, the concerns and inconvenience are the same.
The requirements should definitely be applied to international flights as the tarmac time added to flight times can make for a very long time sitting in a cramped space.
I feel that if the plane is still at the gate (whether the door has been closed or not) passengers should be given the opportunity to deplane if delayed by more than 1.5 hours. Also passengers shouod be allowed to use the bathrooms at anytime during a delay.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    6/2/2010 22:34

    AKTraveler, thanks for the comment.

    Do you think that the tarmac delay period should be the same for domestic and international carriers or should it be different?

6/2/2010 21:54

ALL flights should be covered — it’s no more tolerable being trapped on the tarmac at a small airport than at at large one! Nor any difference if it’s a domestic or international flight! The passenger experience is the same!

6/3/2010 00:51

First, I congratulate and thank Secretary LaHood and DOT for their efforts in improving customer protections for travelers.

The cut-off should be for all types of planes, not just large ones. Airports AND carriers should work together to develop tarmac contingency plans.

Personally, I think 3 hours is too long to be held captive in a immobile plane. Two hours is much more reasonable.

    6/3/2010 01:00

    Welcome to Regulation Room and thanks for your comment!

    A great place to start on the site is to check out the “Site Tour” link at the top right-ish part of the page. There, you can find four short guide videos explaining our site and where we are in the rulemaking process. This morning Secretary LaHood announced the proposed rule, and Regulation Room went live to provide a forum for commenting on what has been proposed.

    Also, would you care to elaborate on what you meant by airports and carriers working together to develop contingency plans for delayed flights stuck on the tarmac? The more information you provide, the more the other contributors can comment and join the discussion as well. Thanks!

    6/5/2010 14:27


    For flights stuck on the tarmac, they must return to an open gates. Open gates are sometimes difficult to find–at least in my experience. I fly internationally frequently and so I fly through major airports in the US. These airports have maybe 60 planes taking off an hour–and landing. Just an incredible number. Practically speaking, the airports must have extra gates available for flights that become delayed for unloading passengers. This could be done by either limiting the number of planes that take-off/land at the airport or providing contingent and safe ways to unload passengers–and provide them with adequate holding areas for these passengers.

    If airports share in the responsibility, they are more likely to work together with the airlines to provide such a service.

    I also think that the information about tarmac delays at individual airports (not just per airlines) should be provided to the consumer. (I know there are some statistics already provided, but I don’t recall seeing any statistics on this recently.)

    Hope this helps.

    (P.S., I lost my first reply using Firefox 3.5 on Mac OSX 10.5. I switched to Safari and it looks like it’s working. If you see this post, it did work.)

    6/5/2010 14:49

    Thank you – your browser is working and you have posted successfully. That’s a good example of a contingency plan airports could consider.

    Though the statistics on tarmac delays are through April (as posted on this site), do you think airlines should provide airport information to those purchasing tickets?

    6/3/2010 13:29

    Agree with mezo. Even 2 hrs is too much if weather is hot, small children are among passengers. Either get the plane in the air or take passengers off.

6/3/2010 13:25

We fly out of a small airport on small feeder planes marked as related to USAIR, Delta, and soon American. Whenever there is a tie up at the hub, these are the planes that have to sit …their takeoff is predicated on space for them to land at ATL and CLT. I think these carriers should be under the same regs. as the big boys.

    6/3/2010 18:02

    I agree with many others that even 3 hours is too long..I think it should be 2 and should apply to all flights regardless of what airport, airline, destination, etc. People are people no matter where they are and should not be subjected to being miserable after paying a fee to fly somewhere! Personally I have anxiety issues and not being able to get out of an enclosed space is extremely stressful. I think the airlines will now be forced to do all they can to prevent these delays. Even though all will not be possible to prevent I think there will be much less episodes wtih these new rules. As far as notification as to what is happening–I think it goes a LONG ways to alleviate frustration if we were informed in detail every 30 minutes. I have been stranded on a plane 3 times–thankfully not more than 1 1/2 hours–but on one of these flights we were informed regularly along the way and it made all the difference.

    7/15/2010 14:40

    Keep in mind that you wouldn’t be able to get out of the plane if it were in the air, either.

    I think deplaning is a bit extreme, because it could throw an already imbalanced flight schedule out of whack, and might delay flights even further or lead to cancellation. I sat on a tarmac in London for five hours earlier this year, but I’d rather wait it out than hop off the plane and miss an opportunity to take off. However, I see no problem with regular passenger updates on the progress of the delay.

    8/7/2010 21:25

    I agree that 3 hours is way too long to be stranded on the tarmac for health, comfort, and emotional reasons. I am a bit confused as to why people are not kept at the boarding area longer. I find it hard to believe that it is always a last minute surprise that comes after everyone is boarded on the plane. I think there should be a time limit on internatioanl flights as well.

    6/3/2010 19:18

    Thanks for the contribution Mom.

    Do you think that the rule should be a 3-hour limit at these smaller airports or would you suggest a different rule?

6/3/2010 18:51

I believe this rule should apply to all air carriers. When you waive it for some you set up a situation which is unfair and opens unforeseen loopholes. 3 hours is a reasonable time limit for all carriers and it should be a legally binding limit. More time than that on the tarmac is nothing more than a demonstration by the carrier that they have not planned properly and are willing to make the paying customer pay for their poor planning.

6/3/2010 22:40

Three hours is too long to wait on the tarmac. The rules should be uniform regarless of the size of the plan or airport. After an hour or so, sitting in a plane becomes unbearable. The maximum time allowed should be two hours with deplaning an option. Boarding passes can be re-used or re-issued for access back onto the plan.

6/3/2010 23:43

The airline companies should be aware of the coming flight delay before boarding. Holding passengers in the plane simply gives them the ability to make more money by re-using the gate for another flight.

They can re-use the gate if the plane is taxied to the wait area and back when flight could proceed, while passengers wait in the waiting area.

I suggest limit the duration of stay onboard to the time required to taxi the plane to a waiting area away from the gates, and back plus, say, half an hour. That would make it total of hour and a half to two hours maximum.

6/4/2010 00:23

I think 3 hours is an absolute maximum that should be enforced on all planes regardless of size or airport. And that is ONLY when restrooms and water are provided. If the delay is longer than the originally scheduled flight (it can happen for short flights), there should be a mechanism for obtaining food as well. With the state of meals & snacks on-board planes these days (they run out even for purchased items), I’ve been stuck in-flight with no food for many hours. If on the ground, it makes no sense to not at least have some snack.

6/4/2010 01:22

DOT should set maximum tarmac delay trigger. It then should apply to ALL AIRLINES and ALL CLASSES of AIRCRAFT. The airlines need to make a legal committment (contract of carriage).
Deplaneing without CBP screening IS a viable option. As a military member, I have done this many times during overseas contract flights. I realize this is customs rather than airport security, but the concept is the same.

Allow passengers to deplane during gate holds, but require them to remain in the immediate area. This is no different than an open-ended delay prior to boarding.

    6/6/2010 18:14

    I think it’s important to stress the real reason that aircraft is not returning to the gate. Once the aircraft pulls away from the jetway, the crew is on the clock. They are not being paid while sitting at a gate. And 3 hours is too long to keep people on a grounded airplane.

    6/6/2010 18:29

    Thank you for your comment and your perspective. Do you know if this is a rule for all airlines? Do you happen to have a link to any data to back it up?

    6/12/2010 04:32

    Yes, most airlines pay flight crew members scheduled flight time or actual time away from the gate whichever is more. Eg. if a flight is scheduled for 2 hours “block to block” (from/to the gate) but it takes 3 to fly it, the crew gets 3. If the flight leaves that gate and returns 2.5 hours later, most airlines only pay that crew either the 2.0 scheduled (if it cancels) or much less. For most crewmembers, the notion that 1 hour at the gate, 2.5 hours of sitting on that taxiway and only get paid for 2 is not very palatable. Whereas sitting for 2.5 hours then fly 2 totals 4.5. It is mostly the pay structure of pilots/flight attendants that poorly designed. Most people would balk at the notion of working 4.5 hours and getting paid for 2.

    6/12/2010 04:51

    The ground delay limitation, has, well, it’s limitations. If we were in pre-regulation days where an airline was making money with only 60% of the seats filled, flights canceling due to the 3 hour limit would not be much of a problem. What is a problem is flights that are now being canceled because of the new rule and virtually no seats available on subsequent flights to accommodate those passengers. If the ground delays are due to ATC, weather, VIP movement (president in the area) then passengers will not be, as a rule, given cancellation perks since they are beyond the control of the company. If the air conditioning, and restrooms are functioning properly and there are plenty of beverages and snacks on board then that maximum number of hours should be flexible. I would be curious to hear from people that had their flight cancel due to the 3 hour limit and how the airlines handled them after that. My guess this rule will cause greater damage to air travel then the occasional extended ground hold on an airplane with poor air conditioning or non-functioning lavatories. Here is my question…if the airplane is comfortable and exceeding the 3 hour limit would cancel the flight with no hotel or meal compensation, would exceeding the 3 hours be ok and if so what would be a reasonable number above 3 be?

6/7/2010 17:34

As a former sufferer of a 3-hour ground delay at DCA two years ago this summer, I would not will such a delay on anybody. The airline I was traveling on (a Star Alliance member) did not provide adequate updates in my opinion, and only provided passengers with seltzer water roughly 90 minutes into the delay, and did not keep the aircraft (a Boeing 737 appx. 7/8 full))cool using the air conditioning . In this airline’s defense, the plane returned to the gate after 2 hours to allow for de-planing, but if the “weather window” was closed, why did we not simply return to the gate and wait in the air-conditioned terminal?

6/8/2010 23:06

I speak from experience as someone stuck on the tarmac in Austin for 6 + hours years ago, before we had cell phones and could call police or the media to make a story about it. Yes, uniform time limit on tarmac delays for all flights at all airports. The inconvenience to passengers is no different no matter what airport they are at. 3 hours is inconvenient, but perhaps acceptable and reasonable, but not a minute longer. Yes, allow passengers to deplane with security in place. Not allowing this process is simply because it would likely be more expensive than imprisoning passengers on planes for hours.

6/13/2010 05:25

I’d think the simplest answer would be that every plane needs to have an airline employee of decision making level on it. If they want to get off, then everyone can get off. Seems to me that the Captain SHOULD already be filling that role, so simply restore the Captain’s authority to do what he feels is in the best interest of the people on his (or her) plane without worrying about a counter-mand from a middle-manager at home in his (or her) hot tub sipping champagne.

If a rule is needed so that it can be empirically decided if someone should be punished, it needs to have a few ‘check points’.

After an hour without air conditioning, even a 747 can get pretty warm. If they want to burn jet fuel to run it, or get an external hookup to run it, that’s up to them. (I was once stuck on a flight where the airline couldn’t do gate assignments, so ground control parked us out of the way, and the Captain sat there and burned jet fuel to run the AC until the company decided to figure it out. The wait was annoying, but listening to ATC on channel 9 of the in flight entertainment was VERY entertaining.)

Two hours is far too long to expect an adult to ‘hold it’, so WORKING restrooms need to be provided by then.

Food and water needs to be determined by the length of the flight. If it’s 30 minutes, and no meal service was planned, than a meal service needs to be performed at 30 minutes. If a meal service was planned, then the meal service needs to be performed on time, even if the flight is still on the ground. People have medical conditions that require regular intake of food. If they only planned for a 30 minute flight, bringing a full meal ‘just in case’ would be unreasonable to expect.

3 hours is about time to give it up entirely. Either cancel the flight, or do a “please ring your call bell if you wish to return to the gate. Be aware that you may not be able to reboard this flight if it takes off without you.”

Again, I’d hope the Captain knows how to manage his (or her) plane. They get one ‘pass’ on any of these limits, but no more than 30 minutes. If the guy at the front of the plane is making poor judgement calls about food, water, and bathroom service, than you’ve got far more problems than a full bladder.

    7/15/2010 14:51

    I’d just like to respond to this as one of those people who needs to plan around meals. I have juvenile diabetes (type 1), so my food intake needs to be fairly regular to keep me healthy and coherent. Obviously, this is important to me. However, that doesn’t mean that I expect the airline to feed me. I always bring snacks onto the plane (no beverages, of course) to hold me over, just in case. It’s hard to predict when you’re going to need to pack an entire meal, but it’s very easy to stick a granola bar and an apple into your bag for the flight. There is nothing preventing people from feeding themselves on the plane, especially if they have a medical condition, as I do.

6/15/2010 18:57

I think most tarmac delays are either weather related or traffic related. At some airports, there are simply so many flights in an out that they can never keep up. Or, when the weather is bad, taking off simply isn’t viable so flights back up. I think the suggestion of having the airlines and airports create “holding” areas for delays is very interesting. It would be like a remote terminal for planes that had already boarded and left the official gate areas. These remote terminals would allow deplaning and have restrooms, emergency and other important facilities. Obviously, there are logistics issues involved, but some serious thought about this might pay off. There would of course be costs involved, but if they’re spread across the industry, I can’t imagine that the ultimate cost to the consumer would be very much, and the availability of such facilities would be a great benefit. Such a plan would probably only work at large airports that experience frequent delays, so there would need to be a separate set of rules for the smaller airports, which couldn’t really be expected to build remote terminal facilities.

    6/15/2010 19:33

    Thank you for the input. You raise an important issue concerning the tradeoff between providing additional facilities to benefit passengers but also possibly increasing consumer costs.

    7/9/2010 01:27

    Good insights rdgeiger,
    I wonder, do airlines get the amount of timely info they need, say… from the tower or the like; thus, allowing them to be effectively proactive and strategic, as to when to actually board and send a plan to the tarmac? Or, as I suspect, the airlines simply board — then make a mad dash for the tarmac with little to no communication with the tower.

    Here is a variation / twist to your idea rdgeiger: create a “virtual” remote terminal where passengers could “pretend” to board the plane which would in turn allow their plane to enter into a “virtual” tarmac line. Then, when the weather clears, the airlines would be instructed, from the tower, to board “for real” and enter the line based on their “virtual” position. This would allow passengers the use of the existing / original gate as the new temporary “holding” area — as per your suggestion.

    But what to do with those unfortunate planes already on the tarmac — caught just as the delay begins? I know, require each gate to remain available and open until that particular plane actually takes flight.

    7/15/2010 14:58

    This is a really interesting solution. Off the top of my head I can name a few problems: first, the largest airports, which experience the largest number of delays, may be located in urban areas in which airport expansion is not as feasible. I grew up in Chicago and traveled out of Midway and O’Hare, airports that are surrounded by city and suburbs. Second, if an airport were to commit some of its finite space to a delay terminal, that space would have to be first taken from another part of the airport, leaving less room for active planes. To me, this sounds like it would limit the number of flights at large airports, making them less competitive and possibly increasing prices. However, I find your idea very creative, and much better than the majority of the solutions to these problems.

6/17/2010 01:25

The problem of whether to deplane or not is a tricky one. On one side is the fact that sitting for an excessive amount of time is uncomfortable at best and unhealthy at worst. However, on the other side there will be considerable time lost with the deplaning and re-boarding.

One item which should be addressed is food and drink. If the airline would normally have food for the passengers on that flight it seems silly to deny access to anything more than a bag of peanuts and a glass of water.

This happened to my husband last week on a Delta flight from Newark to Amsterdam. The passengers were sitting on the plane for over six hours, at the gate, but they were only offered one bag of peanuts and a glass of water or orange juice. The plane eventually took off at approximately 1 a.m., when it should have taken off at 6.40 the previous evening. The dinner was not served until the normal point in the flight, somewhere over the Atlantic!

Allowing passengers off the plane into a holding area would not give them access to food and drink, but would let them move around. However, when passengers expect food to be served on a flight they will often depend on that being served and an excessive delay in serving meals could be hazardous to some people’s health, especially when on a connecting flight so there has been no opportunity to purchase food and drinks at the airport.

    6/17/2010 04:01

    Thanks for your comment! What do you think the solution should be if the plane has left the gate and is sitting somewhere out on the tarmac? Should passengers be allowed to de-plane?

    7/11/2010 09:11

    I have a similar problem with errors on your website with MacOS Safari before it is published. Would you ask IT to test your site against modern browsers? Thx.

    7/11/2010 09:14

    Once the plane has left the gate as long as it’s officially waiting for take-off, then it appears to me passengers should not be allowed to leave the gate. However, I remember times while traveling thru Denver, United would leave the gate, then taxi to the “penalty box” waiting for clearances and take off instructions. Airlines should not be allowed to leave the gate unless there is a expected takeoff time issued by FAA ATC Clearance Delivery and Ground Control. If the expected departure time issued by FAA ATC is over 3 hours then the aircraft should not be allowed to leave the gate. However, if an airline has left the gate, and the departure time is extended while waiting for take-off, where the total time is greater than three hours on the ground then the airport and airline should get buses out to the aircraft for any passengers that want to deplane.

    As you can see there are mitigating circumstances affecting the airline and aircraft and there are a few organizations involved in the situation.. these organizations include the airport authority, the FAA ATC ground control and clearance delivery control, and airline pilots.

6/23/2010 04:15

I feel that this is overdue and should be addressed for all flights – both international and domestic. Funny that we need a law to indicate a plane needs to provide adequate water and facilities. I would like to see the rule be under 3 hours but 3 would be the maximum amount of time for people to sit on a plane.

6/26/2010 05:39

Yes, there should be a uniform federal time limit on tarmac delay. This should apply to all planes that take off or land from US airports: all US flights, foreign flights, and even “flyover” planes that make an emergency landing. It should apply even to flights of fewer than 30 passengers. To me, having contingency plans is not as important as a strong penalty for delaying passengers; I think that is enough of an incentive/deterrent.

I strongly support plans that would allow delayed international passengers to deplane when the delay is sufficiently long.

    6/26/2010 17:43

    Thank you for your comment. What do others think of the proposition that strong penalties will be more effective than contingency plans?

    6/29/2010 18:41

    We boarded a plane toward the end of the boarding call because our plane from Florida that connected was late. We were running & planning to use the bathroom on the plane cause we didn’t have time to stop. We were not told that the 1 bathroom on the plane was not working. I had to sit on that plane from AZ to CA and almost wet the seat. A plane should be required to have working facilities or ground it. I also think it is just as bad to be stuck on tarmac in small plane as large. There is no air & I have anxiety & start feeling really hot if there is no air conditioning & have to wait with all the people breathing in there it gets worse & worse. 2 hours maximum on the tarmac is enough. Deboard plane & let people get off. We are not cattle or sheep to be herded up in a pen (plane). It is inhuman.

    7/11/2010 09:21

    Stronger penalties and contingency plans are separate issues. Contingency plans are just that, they cover a broader array of situations that are likely to occur. Stronger penalties don’t appear to address all the issues. Contingency plans for a broader set of situations. Perhaps the corner cases might not be included but I think there are more situations that need to be worked through. Then again, maybe a blanket rule of three hours would be better since there could be no confusion… three hours is three hours regardless of the situation.

7/11/2010 21:54

I’d like to add my voice to say that all flights should be covered, including international flights.

    7/16/2010 17:32

    Very sensible! I agree 100%.

7/11/2010 22:00

I’d like to add my voice to say that all flights should be covered, including international flights. so, as for the specifics, the tarmac delay should be no more than 3 hours. If having it for all planes is not practical, then planes designed for 30 or more passengers should be covered. Airlines need to get over themselves, and make this part of the contract of carriage, and then operate in a customer-friendly fashion, which includes ample communications when ANY problem arises. Ample means updates at least every 5 minutes, and the updates should be as informative as possible. Airports should certainly have their own tarmac contingency plans, to help facilitate any changes that may need to occur if there is a long delay – getting passengers off the plane, bringing food, water, etc. And yes, airlines should be required to inform passengers that they can deplane if the delay is at the gate. This should be able to be handled with a minimum of fuss.

7/15/2010 15:06

Three hours is a good limit after which the airlines should be ready to better serve the customer. After that, the customer should be able to leave the delay situation in order to make more suitable arrangements for his/her travel. Get off and wait, get off and re-search, get off and into a ‘hold’ tank are operational details which should not confuse the issue at hand: that is for the customer to be released from captivity and to arrange for more accommodating carriers.

7/18/2010 14:15

All Airlines should be required to list the time at terminal, time to board, time out of gate, time wheels up, time wheels down, time to gate, time to deplane, time out of terminal for ALL flights at all airports on all tickets sold from any source. Missing any one time by 10 minutes entitles each passenger one round trip ticket anywhere that airlines flys for one year without any restrictions.

If they miss any one time by 30 minutes or any combination of times within 30 minutes, each passenger can fly anywhere that airlines flys for free for one full year.

If they miss any time, or combination of times, by one hour, or more, then all passengers on that flight fly for free anywhere that airline flys for life.

Also, Tarmac delays should be limited to one hour and then ONLY if the sircraft has hot food (not peanuts) and water on board to feed the passengers while they wait. The toilets must have capacity to cover all ticketed passengers for triple the duration of the flight just to cover ground delays and diversions. While the AC is on hold, the seat belt sign is off, toilets are available, and cabin service serves a full hot meal (breakfast from 4AM to 10 AM, Lunch 10AM to 3PM, Dinner 3PM to 11 PM, lunch from 11PM to 4AM). If the AC is not equipped to provide such services then a maximum tarmac delay of 30 minutes is permitted. The 30 minutes is from door close to door open. Taxi time counts in the delay time.

No AC should be permitted to taxi more than 30 minutes, of this 30 minutes only 10 minutes are permitted to be without moving. Moving is regulated at greater than 5 MPH and not moving is regulated at 5 MPH or less.

Of couse the Airlines and Airports will say that they cannot live with these regulations. My question is why not? It is a simple scheduling issue. At the present time there is NO scheduling because no one pays if the passengers are just sitting on the runway without food, water, or toilets. Let us MAKE the airlines and airports actual schedule just as every other business does, it is just in time delivery, and the car company can do it for the thousands of parts in a car. Surely the esteemed AC industry can do it with a few AC and a few hundred paxs, no????

This rule should apply to all airlines and airport that are FAA regulated and operate scheduled flights. Tarmac delays would become a thing of the past after this rule was pasted. This system would force the airlines to develop realistic schedules and then make the flight. As it is now the airline can get your money and then cancel the flight after sitting on the aircraft for 6 hours with no payout. MAKE THEM PAY!!!

John R Willis

7/18/2010 15:14

The 3 hour “rule” is too long for passenger comfort and support. For the obvious reasons this time frame should be halved.

7/18/2010 15:57

As to the cost and benefit analysis projections prepared by DOT, it would seem to be the shorter the tarmac delay time, analogous to a ship idled in port, the likelihood of saving money would be greater with a shorter delay time to return to the gate. This would seem to make the greater economic sense. It should be self evident based upon “running” time cost in a queue compared to cost of delay (time in gate)to determine a break even point. While this approach might cause inconvenience to some passengers, it become a sum zero game when measured against waiting time on the tarmac, with all the fuss that that generates.

7/18/2010 17:34

For those of us who suffer from claustrophobia-and yet have exercised the courage to fly– every minute of delay behind a closed airplane door is an agony. To those unsympathetic, please imagine listening to the screws of your coffin being inexorably tightened with you alive, inside. It is unlikely that Pepto Bismal, a NY Times bestseller or thoughts of Aunt Em are going to be of much use.

Provide a secured room for deplaning if it is known that the delay will be more than a half hour, at all airports, national and international. And de-plane. Keep us informed of what is going on. Keep the air flowing.

7/18/2010 20:11

I am 72 years old and have medical problems. I need to use the toilet often and need to drink lots of water for the medication that I’m on. Before I board a flight, I take care of these things so it’s not a big deal during a flight. But if we sit on the tarmac for a long time, I’m in BIG trouble!

    7/19/2010 12:46

    Thanks for sharing your concerns. How do you think the airlines might accommodate people with special medical needs during tarmac delays?

7/18/2010 21:11

I have been horrified by stories of people stuck on planes for three, four, six, eight hours. What rational reason could there be for this??? The very idea that you are on a plane, looking at the terminal out the window, and trapped there is absurd. These are flying buses, not spacecraft!

I can understand moderate delays due to unpredictable circumstances, and I appreciate the potential for havoc with schedules if people are getting on and off. But, seriously, what is the security risk? Everyone on the plane has passed screening, and everyone out on the ground has passed screening. How is it risky to let people back into the gate area, or let them deplane on the tarmac and take them to the terminal in a vehicle?

I absolutely support any policies which will lessen the possibility of being trapped longer than two hours! And I’m not claustrophobic.

    7/19/2010 12:42

    Thanks for your comment, openreels. The issue with international flights is that people let back into the airport might need to go through Customs and Immigration again. Do you think creating a special terminal zone where people could wait without having to be re-admitted by Customs and Immigration would be a viable solution, at least for international flights?

    9/4/2010 17:43

    We are talking about departing flights so, in theory, the people on the plane have not yet passed through Customs & Immigration since they are not in the new country yet. Except for some places where Customs is done at the departing airport (Canada, for example).

    So, yes, if it’s that big a deal I would support some kind of holding area.

7/19/2010 09:21

Tarmac rules should cover all airports and the time limit should be shortened to 2 hours

7/19/2010 20:15

Should DOT Department of Transportation set a uniform federal time limit on tarmac delay for US and foreign international flights?

If so, what should that limit be, and why?
90 Minutes. Reasons outlined in other submissions.

If airlines were required to make their plans part of the contract of carriage, would the result ultimately be worse for consumers because airlines might make fewer promises in the plan if they feared being legally liable for not following the plan in unpredictable situations?

Should airports (as well as air carriers) be required to have their own tarmac contingency plans, in addition to coordinating with each carrier about the carrier’s plan?

DOT has checked with Homeland Security and it may be possible to deplane delayed or diverted international passengers without CBP screening if passengers are kept in a separate, closed part of the terminal. Is this idea likely to be workable?
I think ALL passengers should be deplaned (simpler to keep track) to a specific place or places with access to restrooms and refreshments.

As part of better passenger information about delays, should DOT Department of Transportation also require airlines to specifically inform passengers that they can deplane in situations where the delay is at the gate and the aircraft door has not been closed yet? Should airlines be required to specifically tell passengers they can deplane if a plane has returned to the gate, within the 3-hour limit, for mechanical or emergency reasons?
Yes, to both.

7/22/2010 14:49

Handling Tarmac delays requires coordination between the airline and the local airport. The cause of the delay could be anything in the transportation system, ground or flight equipment problems, local or destination weather, crew issues,etc., but the accommodation of the passengers relies on the airport’s ability to handle them. Therefore, the airline must work with each airport it serves to develop a plan for that airline at that airport.

    7/23/2010 10:35

    Thank you for the comment, heyetec. You seem to have some knowledge about the relationship between airlines and local airports. The DOT is interested to know if it would be possible for tarmac contingency plans to be part of the airlines contract of service? Is this possible or are tarmac delays so uncertain that enforcing an airline wide policy simply is not practical?

    7/28/2010 02:23

    A clause in the Contract of Carriage could require that the airline establish a Tarmac Delay Contingency Plan with each airport the airline uses. Furthermore, the airline must keep relevant ststistics about delays and their handling, conduct periodic reviews and revise the plan with the goal of improving customer satisfaction and reducing the causes for the delays (a Six-Sigma approach). I think anything more specific would be unworkable.

    7/28/2010 11:19

    Thank you for your comment. Would you mind elaborating on the six sigma approach? Thank you!

    8/1/2010 14:26

    Six Sigma is a process that improves quality by
    1. Assigning an executive for improving quality (eliminating or reducing the problem).
    2. Identifying problems and ranking them according to accepted criteria.
    3. Developing and implementing a process for correcting the highest priority problem.
    4 Collecting data to measure changes to the problem (getting better or worse).
    4. Reporting results of the data collection and modifying the problem correction process whenever the data indicate the problem is not improving.
    6. Return to step 2 until the problem is reduced to acceptable levels.
    7. Go to the the next problem.

    8/1/2010 19:43

    Thank you for the clarification heyetech!

7/25/2010 16:50

The 3 hour rule should be UNIVERSAL, i.e., international and domestic. No exceptions.

US carriers tarmac contingency plans ought to be included in the airline’s contract of carriage.

The reason for the delay, the current status of the flight, etc. shall be communicated on a real time basis to passengers.

7/27/2010 02:51

Any delay beyond 3 hours is not acceptable. The plane should be brought back and passengers deplaned. The pilot should be aware of the average and maximum tarmac delay for the flight and take the decision. The passengers has to right to know the delay. My problem is that the passengers are not kept informed. When a prolonged delay happen, since the seat belt sign is on the lavatories are closed by the staff and passengers not give the basic amenities. This should be avoided on delays that are more than 90 minutes.

7/28/2010 15:34

To questions under “What DOT particularly wants to know from you”:
1. Yes, there should be uniform tarmac delay deadline to return to gate and allow passengers to exit the plane, and it should be 2 hours, not 3 hours. Many of us passengers become extremely uncomfortable stuck in an airplane cabin for such long periods, especially when we may then have a several hour or more flight to endure once plane is released for takeoff.
2. No, extending the plan to smaller carriers is not too burdensome, because the passenger comfort issue is equally bad (or worse) on smaller aircraft, or at any airport.
3. Making the tarmac contingency plan part of the contract of carriage would be much more good, than bad. Explicit written commitments are important, and are a competitive issue that passengers may care about in choosing a carrier for repeated trips.
4. Yes, airports must have tarmac contingency plans, or too often passengers will be stuck in an aircraft because the airport will not provide a gate or other opportunity for passengers to deplane, when the time limit is exceeded.
5. Providing for a separate location in an international terminal is appropriate, to allow deplaning without passing through customs. It does not seem unduly burdensome, given the length of many international flights and the consequent greater need to provide for passenger comfort during long delays.
6. Yes, DOT should require that passengers be allowed to deplane for gate delays with door still open, or returns to gate for mechanical or emergency reasons. Asking passengers to remain in the immediate gate area to listen for boarding announcements, and expecting as passengers to be accountable to do so at the risk of missing our flight if we fail, is also reasonable. The costs and operational concerns should be minimal, with all of this kept in mind.

7/29/2010 12:06

We’ve had an extensive discussion here about what the airlines are doing wrong when stuff happens and what they should be doing when stuff happens.

What are DOT’s ideas about stopping stuff from happening in the first place? We don’t see these tarmac delays outside of the US. Why is this? Is DOT considering doing anything to reduce the occurrences of tarmac delays?

7/30/2010 12:57

Yes, absolutely passengers should be allowed to deplane whenever possible. Clearly they should not even be boarded until there is a reasonable degree of certainty that no long delays are in the offing. Better planning, time management, and scheduling could certainly help in this regard. Holding passengers in cramped seats with poor air circulation and minimal services, little information and consideration for their comfort is both physically and mentally unhealthy. Every conceivable effort and regulation should be made to avoid tarmac delays for all flights.

    8/1/2010 05:48

    Thank you for the comment. Allowing passengers to deplane without much wait time would certainly make travel more pleasant. The DOT is concerned about potential costs of such a system. For example, this may place a large financial burden on airlines/airports and lead to an increase in ticket prices. Would this be worth potentially paying more to fly?

7/30/2010 23:07

This should go without question that airlines should not be allowed to use their great judgement and keep people on airplanes. I have been on planes in excess of 3 hours and then fly the normal route. Why should airlines be given the authority to make these choices when they have proven over time they cannot.

8/1/2010 12:41

I confess I have not read every item in this string. Thus I may be out of line.
Going on, I have not yet seen anyone address the primary problem- the extended delays themselves.
Are there really no solutions to this? Couldn’t better planning and flight management limit such delays, which seem now to be more the rule than the exception.
We have simply come to expect that there will be a several hour delay. How about a 30 or 60 minute limit?

8/2/2010 20:19

All flights should have the 3 hour limit, including international. And airports should have plans – it doesn’t seem like it would be hard to create a separate area in the terminal so that no re-screening is necessary. Deplaning in a delay situation can be done back to front in an orderly fashion just like boarding. There is no question that clean, working bathrooms, water and AC should be required.

8/4/2010 09:57

Enough is enough. Either you know you can get off the ground in an hour or you don’t. If in doubt, deplane. The airports are obsolete, the ATC system is at least twenty years out of date, there are too many people and too little capacity–so adjust.

8/4/2010 19:25

firstly, all airline personnel must act as humans and treat their CUSTOMERS as such. TELL US THE PROBLEM; DON’T TREAT US LIKE CATTLE; FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE WHEN THINGS START TO GO WRONG!
tarmac delay rules should apply to every flight; EVERY FLIGHT! the CUSTOMERS who must exit or who need aid should be SERVED regardless of the size of the plane, its origination, or its destination.
airlines and airports should tell the truth, the whole truth, and treat their CUSTOMERS with respect! if unpredictable situations arise, well-informed CUSTOMERS who are treated with respect will, most of the time, respond accordingly. as far as i can tell, airlines are not legally liable for anything any more; delays, cancellations, etc. are always blamed on the weather now and CUSTOMERS, when finally untethered from their seats, are finally freed with an attitude of “don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”
airports and airlines should have contingency plans which clearly separate their responsibilities, so that each knows what it must provide when accommodating CUSTOMERS in a crisis.
yes, international CUSTOMERS should not be subjected to more stress and inconvenience by being kept on the plane any longer than normal flight time. why would CUSTOMERS be kept in their tiny seat spaces any longer than necessary when a separate area in the terminal would be so amenable, provided proper services are available? this would be very human, and kind, the kind of thing a company should want to provide for its CUSTOMERS.
as for delays, this depends on the projected duration of delay. the three-hour limit should have no bearing. if the delay is more than one hour, CUSTOMERS should be allowed off. BUT! it should be made crystal clear to anyone who deplanes that it is his/her responsibility to get back before the plane departs. NO IFS ANDS OR BUTS. airlines should exert some backbone and make this stick and CUSTOMERS will admire and appreciate them for it. this will add to the delay, as baggage will have to be removed, but soon enough the problem will be minimal.
thank you so much for this opportunity.

    8/5/2010 13:19

    Thank you for your comment. Would you mind elaborating on any and all responsibilities the airlines might have towards passengers who choose to deplane? You mentioned it should be on the onus of the passenger to get back to the plane on time but should the airlines be also responsible for keeping passengers updated on the status of the departure time?

8/4/2010 22:55

DOT should extend the tarmac delay rules to all flights in the US

8/5/2010 00:45

I support the following:

Uniform time limit on tarmac delays for all commercial flights.

Plan requirement should include all commercial flights – I’d like to see cut-off lower than 30-passenger planes, and certainly not higher.

Airports should also be required to have their own tarmac contingency plans.

If the plane returns to the gate within the 3 hour limit, passengers should be allowed to deplane unless the airline has legitimate basis for believing the total delay will not exceed 3 hours. There should be sanctions if airline underestimates the time remaining more than 10% of the time, or if airline fails to admit to passengers it has no reliable estimate. Passengers should always be allowed to deplane if the toilets aren’t functioning or if the airline can’t provide adequate drinking water.

Question – if the tarmac plans are made part of the contract of carriage, how could it be worse for consumers? What non-mandatory promises do airlines now make that favor consumers?

    8/5/2010 13:40

    Thank you for your comment. You mentioned that all airlines should have a tarmac contingency plan. Are the there any other elements you think all such plans should have?

8/5/2010 17:24

In my opinion, three hours is the maximum amount of time that planes should be allowed to stay on the tarmac before taking off or returning to a gate, whether the flight is domestic or international. Two or two and a half hours would be better. It’s true that if you end up back at the gate after a long spell on the tarmac, you will probably find yourself in a long line waiting to be rebooked. But at least you won’t be stuck in a cramped metal tube that might not have air conditioning, water, or working bathrooms. And speaking of bathrooms, I suggest that there should be a regulation requiring a plane to have at least a certain number of functioning lavatories before it can take off and to divert to the nearest usable airport if all its toilets go out of order during the flight and there is more than a certain amount of scheduled time (45 minutes, maybe?) left in the flight.

8/7/2010 17:32

I think 3 hours is more than enough and should apply to all flights domestic or international period- no if it would disruptive etc. We’ve lost most civil rights by being at an airport, we don’t need to be held captive in the ridiculous amount of seat space we’re allowed these days.This should be in the contract of carriage so airlines must commit. They should also have to tell passengers what the delay is and compensate in most instances. The fact that an airline didn’t get a flight crew there for a scheduled flight shouldn’t be my problem.
Many years ago, airlines allowed deplaning while fixing mechanical problems. If people stay within a secure area with food, bathrooms etc, I don’t see a problem. I’m tired of being an airline captive just because they can and will at their whim.

8/9/2010 17:12

There is NEVER an excuse for leaving an aircraft on the ground for more than 3 hours; rather, an airline’s choice to do so is likely governed by the cost of returning the aircraft to the gate. The thought that an organization deemed qualified to routinely operate and maintain something as complex as a modern airliner might respond that they “can’t” avoid imprisoning people on an airplane is absurd. The rules should apply to all carriers and all airports. Further additional rulemaking should insure that when aircraft are on the ground, whether at the gate or not, adequate climate control and airflow be required in addition to access to toilets and water. Additional rules should require carriers to allow access to one another’s gates on a barter basis or at reasonable cost if there is a need to deboard an airplane. Lastly, penalties for violations should benefit the affected passengers – only when there is a direct cost to mistreating and delaying passengers will there be a sufficient incentive for carriers to treat passengers humanely.

    8/10/2010 12:34

    Thank you for the comment, FedupPAX. You raise an interesting idea of allowing airlines to use each others gates when appropriate. The logistics of this idea may be difficult to implement though.

8/10/2010 16:29

when i said it should be made crystal clear to the CUSTOMER that it is his/her responsibility to make the flight, i meant it. if the airline graciously lets CUSTOMERS out, it’s the CUSTOMER’S job to get back on, just as if the flight is making its original departure.

    8/10/2010 17:47

    You raise an interesting position. A number of posters have been concerned over the possibility that deplaning might increase delays for all travelers by overburdening busy airports. Anyone have thoughts on this?

8/11/2010 10:59

Of course all flights should be covered by the 3-hour limit – that’s a no-brainer. When else is business permitted to hold human beings and animals hostage for endless miserable hours just because nobody prohibits this abhorrent practice? This is all about the convenience for airlines, with complete disregard for comfort and safety of the passenger. Airlines need to be reminded that they are a SERVICE business and should at least attempt to behave as such.

8/11/2010 13:48

I can’t imagine staying sane after being kept on the tarmac for three hours, let alone more! I think passengers should be given the option to deplane and receive their money back after two hours.

8/27/2010 11:12

Of all the many, many things that are unsatisfactory about airline travel, and those that are also within the ability of the airline to control (note—the airlines do not control the weather, they only partially control aircraft maintenance, etc, but the do certainly control putting people into and taking them out of their airplanes), the issue of tarmac delay is the most important to me and far and away the most troubling. I cannot imagine why any airline thinks that it is wise commercial practice to hold its “customers” as prisoner in a venue that most of us occupy for only the shortest possible time, commensurate with using the “service” at all. The initial rule limiting this practice was the single best thing for travelers that the DOT has done in years, and the proposed rule broadening this practice and shortening the period of involuntary imprisonment should be adopted as is, or even strengthened. And it makes no difference if these are international or domestic flights, international or domestic airlines, big or small air terminals, etc. Prison is prison.

    8/28/2010 22:24

    Thanks for your input! You bring up an interesting point, that passengers are the airline’s customers and should be treated accordingly. Do you think the DOT could do something to allow customers to make informed choices about which airline to fly, based on data about tarmac delays?

8/29/2010 09:52

Absolutely agree with requiring that all commercial aircraft be required to comply with the DOT-proposed tarmac delay rules. Since the main problems that airlines feared have not been shown to be valid in the year since implementation (DOT data reported in June 2010)- moving forward with a comprehensive plan is responsible and desirable.

The 3 hour limit is perhaps reasonable IF AND ONLY IF, sanitation facilities, food and water, and cabin temperature and air quality can be rigorously maintained at regulated (and monitored) levels for the duration of the wait and the subsequent flight time.

The idea of deplaning and segregating passengers is workable – as are all of the other points, if advance planning (including table top and live exercises) is performed and red-teamed to ensure general applicability of solutions.

As new airports and aircraft are built, or as renovations are undertaken, the processes identified as important to achieve in during the planning process can be considered and worked more seamlessly into future designs.

Notifications should be required when a situation changes – if people are at some point allowed to deplane – they should be notified of their rights and responsibilities, just as they are when they are when they are no longer allowed to move around in the aircraft. This will make the situation clear to both passengers and to airline personnel. Any longer time period should be unacceptable except in the most extreme circumstances – and the requirements to maintain passenger comfort should not be relaxed. A shorter delay time might be considered at very small airports and for very small aircraft (such and the CRJs and other commuter aircraft.

8/29/2010 10:28

I’m not a huge fan of the 3-hour tarmac delay policy. But it’s here.

I do think that airports should work with airlines to create contingency plans. These plans should consider the use of deserted areas of airports (in airports that are not being used to capacity) where a gate and it’s area could possibly be used for passengers that include a bathroom without getting “lost” in the airport. Anytime you let people off a plane you run the risk of passengers not coming back creating new concerns. A dedicated area for this would limit these concerns.

If a plane has returned to a gate for the 3-hour rule then you should allow passengers off the plane, otherwise the rule is a complete waste of time for everyone. Isn’t the purpose to allow passengers to have a choice?

However, if the plane is going to have an open cabin door for less then 30 minutes then I think it would just create more problems to make announcements allow passengers off. If the door will only be open for 15 minutes and half your passengers get off someone probably isn’t going to get back in time.

8/29/2010 12:13

It is unfortunate that the airlines have forced the government to step and and set limits by holding passengers hostage on the tarmac and treating them like items to be shipped and not people.
While schedules must be met – EVERYONE is inconvenienced by flight delays, including the airline, the travelers and the airport.
Consideration is what is needed here, and the airlines have proven that they cannot be considerate to the travelers without a rule.
Consequently, I believe a federal limit is necessary, however I believe there are multiple factors that should be considered. For instance, if a plane with 100 people on it has only 2 operating bathrooms, perhaps the timeframe should be shorter than a plane with more bathrooms in operation. Further, I would think the delay for a smaller plane that provides passengers with so little headroom that they cannot stand up without bending their heads (based on the height of an average american) should be less than 3 hours. The facilities on the plane could also be a factor (e.g., whether the plane has enough supplies to provide every traveler with sufficient water for the wait – including both the time on the tarmac and the time in the air). I believe that if the airport is closed (due to time of day) and the bathrooms on the plane are sufficient to satisfy the needs of the travelers, there is no reason to let travelers off the plane if the plane is waiting at the gate. However, if the airport is open and the airline does not intend to provide travelers with food, it is appropriate for the airline to let travelers off the plane so they can get food if the wait is long.
I see the reason for letting travelers deplane as being to allow them to obtain what they need and cannot get if they are held on the plane. If international passengers are allowed to disembark, but are unable to access bathrooms or shops to obtain food or reading material, I don’t see that as a reasonable accommodation.
The only reason the airlines do not want to publish their plans in their respective contracts of carriage is because people may attempt to sue them if they fail to comply with those plans. Not that I believe people should sue at the drop of a hat, but I do believe the travelers should have that as an option if the airline acts in an egregious manner. Thus, I believe airlines should be required to include their plans in their contracts of carriage.
I believe that airports should have tarmac contingency plans. Perhaps if both the airlines and the airports were required to have plans, the back and forth would lead to better coordination.
Throughout all, I believe the airlines should inform their travelers about the situation regularly. One reason for traveler angst in these situations is due to the lack of information. Setting traveler expectations is good.
However, airlines also must realize that sometimes the best decision is to let the travelers get off the plane and make other travel arrangements.

8/29/2010 12:30

Do not trap me for over two hours on a plane that is not moving. If the plane is hot (over 85F) or cold (under 65F) take me somewhere comfortable. Treat me, the other passengers, and the crew, as if we were valued as people. Getting where we are going is very important. So is not getting sick or being terrified for well being.

8/29/2010 12:39

Make the time no more than 2 hours

8/29/2010 13:58

Being confined in an airplane is too long. I think the maximum confinement period should be 1 hour at most and after 20 minutes, passengers should have access to water, lavatories, and standing/moving about. This should apply to all airlines/airports, any size plane, domestic and international.

8/29/2010 14:11

TWO hours should be the maximum delay on a tramac. Health issues as well as overuse of restroom facilities before the trip is finally completed are major issues. Water should always be available to waiting passengars. If the delay is weather related it is out of the carriers control, but IF it is MAINTENANCE related, then all passengars should be given compensation. Without having to pay compensation (a cost) the carriers have no incentative to ado their best.

8/29/2010 14:58

I think it’s essential to have functioning restrooms for us old people and sufficient food and water. Any delay is annoying, but information is critical. I haven’t seen many posts on that. Tell us WHY we are being held and WHEN we expect a change. That info should be updated at least every 30 min. But does that require a regulation or is it good common sense customer service?

8/29/2010 16:21

On a recent flight, we were delayed about 2 hours on the tarmac. The crew did a good job of keeping us updated every 15 – 20 minutes, if only to say they didn’t know anything new. [the issue was weather elsewhere] I was concerned when the pilot announced we would return to the gate if anyone wanted to deplane – losing our place in line, disrupting connections even more, etc. I realize there are medical issues which are emergencies – I’m not talking about those. I agree with the 3 hour rule in principle and think it’s reasonable to extend it to more airports and all airlines – I actually think passengers should have less control than we apparently had in this setting.

8/29/2010 18:00

1. The tarmac delay limit should apply to all commercial passenger flights. Being stuck on a hot, stinking plane is what is no matter the size of the plane, no matter who owns it.

2. The tarmac delay rule should apply to airports as well as airlines.

3. Making the delay interval part of the rules of carriage is less important than making sure excessive tarmac delays don’t happen. Both airports and airlines should return delayed planes to the terminal as a matter of course.

4. Three hours is still too long. As it happens, I have arthritis which is sometimes aggravated when I sit with my knees sharply bent. In three hours I might well be in intense pain (so I avoid long flights anyway). If I were writing this rule, I’d say one hour is the maximum permissible delay.

8/29/2010 21:51

Travelers who must wait more than 90 min on the tarmac for takeoff should be allowed to deplane.
Passengers on arriving aircraft who must wait for more than 90 min to deplane should be provided with a complimentary free class upgrade on their next flight.

8/30/2010 11:39

I don’t think that flights of less than 60 should be covered: in general passengers on these smaller aircraft get more personal service and it would be less cumbersome to deplane passengers if needed. The 3-hour rule should apply to international carriers as well as US carriers. Small hub and non hub airports should also be subject to the 3-hour limit for domestic flights. Where a plane is at the gate and the aircraft door has not yet been closed, passengers should be permitted to deplane after, say, 1 hour. In addition, passengers should be able to deplane if the plane has returned to the gate and the delay is over 1 hour. In relation to deplaning delayed or diverted international passengers, I recall (admittedly a number of years ago) facing exactly the same issue when traveling trans-Pacific and transiting Hawaii. We were always able to deplane in Hawaii as long as we remained within a certain area of the airport. At least we were able to stretch our legs and use the bathroom facilities in the airport.

8/30/2010 15:06

I agree with JDwyer. There should be ONE rule (re time in the plane on the tarmac) for ALL FLIGHTS – and that should be a maximum of 3 hours with food, water, bathroom available after 2 hours – and airlines should be financially penalized for every passenger on the flight if they disregard the rule – and the penalty should be stiff and evenly applied. Instead of the current penalty, why not make it an even $50,000 per passenger per hour or fraction thereof? Might get their attention and some results.

9/2/2010 03:56

I agree with some of the others, they should not be telling people they cannot get off the plane. I am tall with back problems, flying is already a pain in the neck, sitting more time on the tarmac just makes matters worse. Their should be a place where passengers are allowed off, but are not allowed to associate with ground crew for security reasons. Being trapped in a plane even for an hour on the ground is not fun, nor is it necessary most of the time. Three hours is way too long! An hour is already difficult.

The size of the airport does not matter, as stated before by others, the feeling is the same.

The time limit should be no more than 30 minutes. People have health problems or muscle and bone issues cannot stay seated that long. One recent youtube video I saw there was no A/C, no water, could not get up, etc. That is ridiculous. 30 minutes! If it is over 30 minutes the plane goes back to the terminal and everyone who wants to get off can, they just have to stay in the confines of the terminal and not to be late to reboard the flight. The airline also needs to stay on top of things and let people know how long they will need to wait at the gate.

A flight many years ago, the airline was smart, they told us to wait in the terminal, for 2 more hours due to where we were flying to was too crowded, I was much happier in the terminal than having to sit in the plane for two hours. Kudos to them!

To answer your questions what DOT particular wants us to know.

1. 30 minutes as stated earlier. Period, no excuses.

2. No, because 30 minutes or back to the gate.

3. No idea what you mean by this. So many regulations?

4. may be possible? Why is it only may be possible? Either it is or it is not. Put everyone in a separate place that they cannot leave the terminal or gate area, it is not that difficult, it is not rocket science here..

5. If there is going to be that much of a delay why are we even allowed to board?! Passengers should be allowed off anytime with out anyone having to tell us we can, period. We should not be mandated to sit for hours and hours. All airports should have places for this, go back to the gate and let us get off and wait in the terminal at the gate so that security is not compromised.

Airline Passenger Rights "Tarmac delay"

Agency Proposal
By the Regulation Room team based on the NPRM
Agency Documents
1 56


Tarmac delay has been in the news a lot lately, and some of the stories have been pretty horrifying. New federal rules now set a 3-hour limit on holding passengers on the plane — at least for domestic flights at larger airports. They also require airlines to provide basic necessities like water and lavatory access during tarmac delays. Now, the Department of Transportation (DOTDepartment of Transportation) is considering whether all domestic flights should be covered by the 3-hour limit. And it’s wondering whether there should be a federal time limit on tarmac delays for international flights.

This post will tell you more about what the problems have been, and what solutions DOT Department of Transportation is considering – and alert you to questions DOT particularly wants people to comment on.

2 8 The Problems:

Recent federal rules set a 3 hour limit on keeping passengers in a plane sitting on the tarmac and require that passengers have access to lavatories, medical care if needed, and food and water after 2 hours.  (The 3-hour limit doesn’t apply if deplaning would create safety or security problems, or “significantly disrupt” airport operations.) But these rules apply only to domestic flights at large-hub or medium-hub airports. (See a list of airports here.) Long tarmac delays create the same problems and discomforts for passengers at small-hub and non-hub airports.

Under the new rules, international flights by US carriers must be covered by a “tarmac delay contingency plan” containing an “assurance” that tarmac delays will not be longer than a set number of hours. But federal regulations don’t put any limit on how many hours the plan can specify — and international flights by foreign carriers are not required even to have a contingency plan. Passengers suffer the same discomforts from long delays regardless of where the flight is going or which carrier operates it. In fact, passengers whose travel is disrupted because of delays on international flights will likely have more problems getting reasonable rebookings because such flights happen less frequently.

Also, although DOT Department of Transportation told US carriers that their tarmac contingency plans ought to be included in the airline’s contract of carriage, many carriers haven’t done this. The contract of carriage is the legally binding agreement between the airline and passengers, which the airline has to make available to consumers and has to abide by. Even if more carriers were required to have contingency plans, the same thing might happen.

Finally, passengers have been very frustrated when they get little or no communication from airline personnel about the reason for the delay, the current status of the flight, etc.

3 7 The Proposed Solutions:

DOT wants to extend the new tarmac delay rules to flights at small-hub and non-hub airports. This would mean that all domestic flights are covered by the 3-hour limit and the responsibility to provide passengers with basic necessities, except at very small airports (< 10,000 passengers a year). Airlines would have to coordinate their tarmac delay contingency plans in advance with all airports they use, as well as with TSA and US Customs & Border Protection (CBP). This advance coordination should make it less likely that safety, security, or airport operation concerns would extend the 3-hour limit.

The new rules that international flights by US carriers must have a pre-announced time limit for tarmac delay would be extended to foreign carrier international flights, so long as the carrier operates any international flights in the US with planes designed to hold 30 or more passengers.  (All flights by the carrier would be covered, even if a specific flight involves a smaller plane.) These carriers would have the same requirements for passenger necessities, contingency plans, advance coordination, etc. as US-carrier international flights.  DOT Department of Transportation is not currently proposing to set a federal time limit on delay for international flights, but wants to know what you think about this. (See next section).

DOT is considering requiring (rather than just strongly suggesting) that the tarmac contingency plan be included in the the airline’s contract of carriage.

Finally, DOT Department of Transportation is thinking about requiring these US and foreign carriers to update passengers every 30 minutes during a tarmac delay about the status of the flight and the reasons for the delay.

4 33 What DOT Department of Transportation particularly wants to know from you:

Should DOT Department of Transportation set a uniform federal time limit on tarmac delay for US and foreign international flights? If so, what should that limit be, and why?

Is extending the tarmac contingency plan requirement to smaller international carriers (operating any flight in the US with a plane designed for 30 or more passengers) too burdensome given the expected benefits? Should the cut-off instead be planes designed for 60 or more passengers?

If airlines were required to make their plans part of the contract of carriage, would the result ultimately be worse for consumers because airlines might make fewer promises in the plan if they feared being legally liable for not following the plan in unpredictable situations?

Should airports (as well as air carriers) be required to have their own tarmac contingency plans, in addition to coordinating with each carrier about the carrier’s plan?

DOT has checked with Homeland Security and it may be possible to deplane delayed or diverted international passengers without CBP screening if passengers are kept in a separate, closed part of the terminal. Is this idea likely to be workable?

As part of better passenger information about delays, should DOT Department of Transportation also require airlines to specifically inform passengers that they can deplane in situations where the delay is at the gate and the aircraft door has not been closed yet? Should airlines be required to specifically tell passengers they can deplane if a plane has returned to the gate, within the 3-hour limit, for mechanical or emergency reasons? What are the likely costs and operational concerns if such announcements are made?

See what DOT Department of Transportation said on this issue: NPRM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: the official document announcing and explaining the proposed rule Section 1, Section 4.

See the proposed rule text on this issue: Section 259.2, Section 259.4

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