Travelers concerned about airline delays and treatment may recall the nightmare suffered last summer by 47 people trapped aboard a crowded commuter jet with faulty lavatories for seven hours. All night long, they were just a stone's throw from the comfort and services of Minnesota's Rochester International Airport.
Thanks to a new rule that took effect April 29, 2010, DOT is protecting air travelers from lengthy tarmac delays.
Fast Lane readers may recall the nightmare suffered last summer by 47 people trapped aboard a crowded commuter jet with faulty lavatories for seven hours. All night long, they were just a stone's throw from the comfort and services of Minnesota's Rochester International Airport. (Now isn't that simply "insane"?)
Well, there should be no doubt airline passengers deserve to be treated fairly, and the rules now effect tomorrow are a step toward ensuring that fair treatment. (via fastlane.dot.gov)
It is my belief, however, that these new rules don't go far enough, NOR do they address the very root cause of airline delays and tarmac time in the first place.
Following is an email sent directly to Mr. LaHood requesting that the allowable tarmac time be reduced from three hours to 1/2 hour and that beyond mere symptomatic remediation, that the DOT begin to address the core issues of airline organization and airport management that have led to this situation.
Greetings Mr. LaHood,
I appreciate the intent behind recent regulations restricting the amount of time airline passengers will have to be confined in a plane on the tarmac. Still, I find the limits placed here grossly insufficient.
With sincere respect, Mr. LaHood, have you and/or your family ever sat on a plane on a tarmac for even 1/2 hour - never mind three (3) hours? Do you think you and/or they could handle it?
And am I correct that the new ruling says passengers should be given water and food after two (2) hours sitting on the tarmac? This seems a strange wait when beverage services normally begin on most airlines about 15 minutes after take-off.
Bottom line - while these regulations may have been created to solve a problem, they do NOT address the underlying issues that cause the delays in the first place - namely overbooking and poor scheduling. These regulations also do little to truly address physical and psychological well being of passengers.
INDEED, what will the US Department of Transportation do when someone experiencing so much anxiety sitting in a stuffy perhaps hot plane on the tarmac for even an hour finally decides to open an exit door? Truly, what would happen if passengers in mass rebelled against the small handful of flight attendants to also open the entry door to get fresh air in the plane - and heaven forbid, for some perhaps jump out? Has this been considered?
In my view, there is no reason why a plane should sit on a tarmac for more than a half hour. At the 1/2 hour point, the plane(s) should be redirected back to the terminal and passengers allowed to deplane. Should the cause for the delay be a matter of "weather," they can wait out the delay in the terminal with its full size restrooms and restaurant capabilities. When the delay is a function of airline error, passengers should be compensated, either via re-booking to another flight without change fee and hotel accommodations if necessary or, in the case of those who choose not to fly, a complete refund.
It is only through THIS degree of regulation, federal penalty and loss of business that the airline industry will be compelled to get its collective act together. As it is, the industry treats most passengers - those in coach seating - as "cattle" with the industry itself having degraded to little more than an interstate bus experience.
In sum, unless you and your family are personally willing to sit on a tarmac for three hours - the first two without water and food - I would offer that this new regulation lacks "teeth" to do the job.
Lawrence N. Koss