New tarmac delay contingency plans — what’s in it for you?

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules, which I wrote about yesterday on this site and in a special edition of my MSNBC column. Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

There may be reason why the first order of business in the Transportation Department’s new rulemaking on passenger rights addresses the problem of tarmac delays. These rare but completely needless ground delays have been a political hotbutton, leading to previous action by the department that effectively bans airlines from keeping passengers parked on a taxiway for more than three hours.

But apparently, the rule didn’t go far enough.
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Delta wins tarmac delay hall of shame in latest month as airline complaints skyrocket

delta3The October tarmac delay numbers have just been released by the Transportation Department, and there’s good news: No one had to wait on a parked plane for more than four hours.

The bad news? Plenty of people had to wait more than three hours.

And more bad news: The number of airline complaints is up. Way up.
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Is the Department of Transportation really protecting air travelers?

happy trailsThat’s a question worth asking after the Secretary of Transportation posted a response to a column I wrote about tarmac delays.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he supported my “advocacy on behalf of airline passengers” but expressed disappointment in the column, which was published in Sunday’s Washington Post, for its perceived criticism of his agency. I’ve left a comment on the Secretary’s blog in response, but I wanted to address one of the bigger questions he raises.

Specifically, do I think DOT is falling down on the job?
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Tarmac delay hall of shame: US Airways loses in latest month

airwaysUnlike some of my esteemed travel writing colleagues, I won’t make the mistake of confusing a few tarmac delay activists with the entire passenger rights movement. Still, the August airline performance numbers, which have just been released by our friends at the Department of Transportation, merit a closer look.

You might think ExpressJet Airlines flight 2816 would be a standout. Not quite correct.
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