Weekend poll: Do we really need a new tarmac-delay law?

Congress is in the final throes of negotiating the FAA Reauthorization Bill. Part of the proposed law contains several controversial consumer provisions. One of the most debated concerns is whether to make the current Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation that limits an airplane’s time on the runway to a maximum of three-hours a law that can only be changed by Congress.

Some congressmen and advocates like the new DOT regulations so much that they want to make the current rules the law of the land. That would make it almost impossible to change.

The DOT regulations have been in effect for about a year and they have effectively eliminated tarmac delays, according to many experts. Part of the newest rulemaking from DOT also includes an increase in the data collection about tarmac delays so that the effects of the new regulations can be studied further.

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Airlines are collecting data so that they can figure out how to deal more effectively with the current DOT regulations that say planes must return to the terminal after three hours — no excuses — backed up with million dollar fines.

Airlines have claimed that the current rules are forcing them to cancel flights that would have otherwise been flown. The biggest reason? After three hours on the runway is that the crew times out, meaning that new pilots and flight attendants must be found to allow the flight to continue.

Airline analysts have entered the fray with statistics that show the vast majority of passengers would rather “wait it out” on the runway (with toilet facilities, water and limited provisions) in hopes of getting to their destination.

What do you think?

13 thoughts on “Weekend poll: Do we really need a new tarmac-delay law?

  1. You didn’t give an option for “reduce the time limit to 1 hour”, but that’s what
    I would have voted for. I’d rather wait inside in comfort than on the plane,
    especially as most flights are now filled to capacity. Experience with the
    current rule shows that the airlines can do it if they want to, so now it’s time
    to go further. If they added penalties for flight cancellation, that would
    prevent them from punishing passengers. And if they raise airfares to
    compensate, perhaps we’ll have to re-introduce regulation. Airlines have shown
    time and again that they simply don’t get it: if they want to be profitable
    again they have to give more customer service, not less.

    1. I agree with Brooklyn. And the airlines are just trying to keep their “on line departure” illusion intact anyways. On line departure to them means pushing away from the gate. It has nothing to do with the concept of reality that the plane is now en-route. Sitting on the tarmac for hours doesn’t constitute being en-route in my book!

      And having to involve Congress to change something like this is complete folly!!!!

  2. “Airlines have claimed that the current rules are forcing them to cancel flights that would have otherwise been flown.”

    Airlines claim a lot of things, and most of them are garbage. Nobody is forcing them to do anything, they CHOOSE to cancel flights rather than get their act together.

  3. Anybody remember a guy named Barry Goldwater? Back in ’64 he famously remarked that a government big enough to give you everything you want must also be big enough to take everything you’ve got.

    No, there SHOULDN’T be a law. There are too many already. I would much rather have Consumer Reports rate airlines than the FAA. THEY, at least, report to US.

    If it weren’t so difficult to start up a new airline, Delta would face a lot more competition and many of these ‘problems’ would evaporate. The problems you’re seeing are problems caused by too much regulation, not too little.

  4. I agree with the poster who said it should be one hour. three hours is too long, especially since they never give you food or water while you wait, if you are in economy. The airlines and the airports need to work on better logistics, so planes don’t have to wait so long before taking off. Schedule them better, have a better bullpen where the planes can wait, so the passengers get on, and then you take off.

    This comment about flights being canceled is a ridiculous statement. It is meant to scare people away from enforcing the regulations.


    1. “This comment about flights being canceled is a ridiculous statement.”

      So…I guess airlines’ cancelling flights to avoid the $27,000 fee per passenger is ridiculous? Unless you mean for them to pay anyway.

      And nope, not shilling or whatever for the airlines. Just an observation.

  5. I used to be kinda against these laws as they were causing flights to be cancelled – possibly inconveniencing more people. BUT, I did talk to someone who works for the Port Authorty of NY and NJ and he told me that the Cathay Pacific flight that sat for 12 hours was the fault of Cathay Pacific – Port Authortity offered them different gates that they didn’t like.
    So, I do believe that some of these issues are controlled by the airlines, but some are not – like a weather change between push back and take off.
    I think I would like to see them allow airlines to apply for exceptions in extreme cases – maybe an extra hour in severe and unexpected weather. Or maybe allow the airline to change a departure time for purposes of on-time performance in the event of severe weather.

  6. I wasn’t sure how to vote on this one because without a law making the airlines responsible financially they’ll go on abusing passengers with their delays on the tarmac.

    With regulation, the government is becoming more and more intrusive in our daily lives.

    I suppose the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Sadly, both these “industries” are known for taking advantage of the people, given the chance.

    I gotta be honest, I don’t know how to vote here OR what’s better.

  7. You see, we just don’t trust the airlines to have our best interest at heart. They can easily come up with a plan if pilots timeout, give me a break. We all know the airlines and the TSA hate us. At least that’s the impression I get.

  8. If the crew is going to time out after 3 hours on the runway anyway meaning the plane would have to return to the gate, what is it the airlines are complaining about? When the crew times out, the flight cannot continue without a different crew. Are the airlines planning on letting the plane sit on the runway fully loaded until the crew have time to sleep?

    I would much rather have my flight cancelled, provided the airline places me on the next flight, than sit for an indeterminate time in the plane on the runway. And so do most of the people I know who fly. Which people are these analysts surveying that want to sit in the plane for hours on end?

    So, yes, I want Federal law backing up the delay rules.

  9. I think I’d be willing to cut the airlines a bit more slack on this if they’d be willing to better accommodate special needs passengers in lengthy tarmac delay situations. A relative of mine has deep vein thrombosis (she’s on blood thinners and has to wear medical-grade support hose) and has to be extremely careful about flying. She rarely flies and won’t take flights of more than two hours. But if a plane ends up with a long tarmac delay she could end up in a situation where she needs to elevate her leg or it becomes extremely painful and she risks clotting. Would the flight attendants allow her to lie in the aisle with her leg elevates? Probably not.

    I also have relatives who are diabetic who need to eat on a regular basis. Fortunately they can plan ahead and bring extra food, but there are many medical conditions (such as DVT) that can be exaserbated by a long tarmac delay that can’t be planned for. So unless the airlines are willing to accommodate such passengers, I think they need to be mandated to bring the plane back to the gate!

  10. None of the above, change it to compensation for the passengers that are stuck waiting! after a 3 hour tarmac delay, a fine to the government (who didn’t have to sit belted in on an airplane) isn’t fair. Pay to it to the passengers!

  11. As if we can really trust Congress to look out for individual consumers’ best interests, when the airlines are represented by legions of lobbyists, congressional delegations, and sympathetic staffers. And whatever laws Congress writes need to be translated into regulations by the DOT anyways.

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