It’s the time of year when the travel industry likes to play the weather card. Couldn’t check into your hotel? Blame it on that distant tornado. Flight canceled? It’s the hurricane’s fault, even though it’s hundreds of miles away. A big repair bill for your rental car? Thank last week’s hailstorm.
Usually, the weather — often referred to as an “act of God” in a ticket contract — is a perfectly legitimate reason for a delay or a service interruption. But not always.
A few minutes after Michele Loftin’s recent commuter flight from Sacramento to San Francisco pushed back from the gate, it made an abrupt U-turn and returned to the terminal. A United Airlines crew member told passengers that the aircraft’s de-icer test had failed, and the airline eventually canceled the flight. Read more “Are airlines bending the truth about weather delays?”
Anyone who thinks tarmac delays are dead was in for a little shock this week. Hundreds of flights were delayed in a series of powerful blizzards, and a few sat between the runway and the terminal for hours, waiting for the weather to clear.
The Transportation Department, which hasn’t fined a single airline for a tarmac delay since instituting its three-hour rule last spring, will almost certainly have to take some enforcement action this time. And, of course, there’s a big loophole: International flights remain exempt from the turnback rule.
More than two dozen international flights waited more than three hours from Monday to Wednesday to get to an open gate in New York, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.