Three Cheers (and One Boo) for Tarmac Stranding Limit

The Department of Transportation cracks down on airlines stranding passengers for hours on end

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As the flurry of holiday travel descends, the Department of Transportation has proclaimed new rules prohibiting airlines from keeping passengers stranded on the tarmac longer than three hours. The tougher restrictions come after a string of incidents in which passengers were kept on board for hours, sometimes entire nights, before takeoff. While most are celebrating the new clampdown, others are worrying if it will clog up the system for other travelers. Here's the scoop:

  • Our Long, National Nightmare Is Over, writes Rick Seaney at Travel Insights: "What's it mean? The end of 'trapped on the tarmac' nightmares, it sounds like. Basically, Sec. LaHood apparently is not waiting around for a passenger rights bill from Congress -- he's being proactive -- and I like it. This will go into effect in a few months. Oh, and there's a lot more to it -- including prohibiting 'airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights.'"
  • More Transparency and More Snacks, writes Matthew Wald in The New York Times: "Under the rule, the airlines will have to post on their Web sites details about incidents that exceed the two- or three-hour limits. And airplanes that today do not carry any food would have to start carrying snacks for emergencies."
  • Stickin' It to the Airlines Joan Lowy at The Associated Press writes, "With its new regulations, the Transportation Department sent an unequivocal message on the eve of the busy holiday travel season: Don't hold travelers hostage to delayed flights.
  • May Slow Things Down for Everyone, reports Josh Mitchell at The Wall Street Journal: "Airlines would be fined $27,500 per passenger for violations, far higher than any penalty so far imposed, and a move that could wipe out industry earnings...The new fines could amount to millions of dollars per delayed aircraft, a massive increase from what the DOT called 'unprecedented fines' it levied in November for one of the most high-profile 'stranding' cases." Relaying the concerns of Airlines, Mitchell writes that forcing airlines to "de-plane" passengers could create more delays throughout the airport system.
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