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.
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Tarmac delays, R.I.P.? Don’t bet on it

Did the federal government just kill tarmac delays?

You could be forgiven for thinking so after reading this morning’s news release from the Transportation Department, which declared that for the first time since it began keeping records on tarmac delays, it recorded no delays of more than three hours in October. That’s down from 11 flights in Oct. 2009.

There’s no word on delays of less than three hours, although it seems our attention is likely to focus on them soon.

I’ll skip the Ray LaHood soundbite. Needless to say, the DOT is pleased with itself.

But did it just kill tarmac delays? I wouldn’t be so sure.
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Now that the tarmac delay rule is “working as planned” should the government shorten the leash?

That’s a question a lot of airline observers may be asking themselves after today’s DOT report (PDF) that there was just one tarmac delay exceeding three hours in August 2010.

And look at this chart (above). What point is reporting this data to the flying public when there’s no meaningful data to report?

The Transportation Department is doing a well-deserved victory lap on tarmac delays. In today’s news release, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood summed up his department’s reasons to celebrate:

These numbers show that the tarmac delay rule is protecting passengers from being trapped indefinitely aboard an airplane – with little or no increase in canceled flights.

Also, it shows that the hard work the airlines are putting into implementing the rule is paying off. With the summer travel season behind us, it appears that the rule is working as planned.

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New airline rules address tarmac delays, retroactive contract changes, disclosures

Our friends at the Transportation Department have unleashed a blizzard of airline rule changes on us this morning. They’re being characterized as an early Christmas present for air travelers — particularly those with lengthy tarmac delays. And the government is not done yet.

But read the actual rule, and the DOT’s nuanced discussion of its final rulemaking (PDF), and a different picture emerges.

(A lot of people have asked me what I think of the changes. They’re fine. But I’d be naive to believe these revisions will improve the air travel experience for a majority of us. Like the “passenger rights” movement itself, this only helps a small fraction of special-interest air travelers. The airline industry and I are kind of in agreement when it comes to the issue of tarmac delays.)

Here are the big changes:
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Tarmac delay hall of shame: Delta, American — please take a bow!

delta2So you think that after criticizing the tarmac troopers recently, I’ll lay off my monthly series on the tarmac delay hall of shame?

I’m sorry to disappoint you.

The latest losers were released this morning by our friends over at the Department of Transportation. They’re for the month of September.

Only two flights had ground delays that exceeded four hours.
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