Q. I'll be traveling to Reno next weekend and am terrified that I'll get stuck on the tarmac for hours. I heard recently about a 10 hour situation with one of the airlines. Is there a policy regarding holding passengers hostage like this?
A. Tarmac Terror! Yes we've all heard the horror stories... no water, no food, over-flowing toilets in restrooms with no more toilet paper and soap, and worst of all, no escape.
We've found the best way to deal with any anxiety concerning this unpleasant possibility is preparation. With just a few items in your carry on and some strategic behavior on your part, you'll be ready for a long stay in your seat on the ground.
Yes, many airlines have contingency plans and policies posted on their websites, but we must point out that the language gives many of them a lot of wiggle room. For example, one of them promises you a Nutri-Grain bar (gee willikers...thanks!) in case of a tarmac delay, with no mention of a maximum time limit spent on your non-moving plane! Some suggested strategies:
1. Pack an extra meal. If it's a snack flight in the afternoon, pack dinner. If it's an early morning breakfast flight, pack lunch. You get the idea. Non-perishable extra snacks are good. You may want to share with your starving, unprepared seatmates. Fork over for a bottle of water post-security to bring with you on the plane. If you're feeling really stingy, bring an empty and fill it up in the terminal (again, post-security!).
2. Monitor the weather. Check out the forecasts for your departure city, your arrival city and what the heck, for the entire country. Nowadays, a snowstorm at JFK can cause delays all over the country.
3. Fully charge your cell phone and other electronics. You may need to make some calls and let folks know where you are, but keep the conversations brief as a courtesy to your fellow passengers. (Long conversations about nothing are sure to make everyone around you even crankier during a delay.) As for your other electronics, if they're fully-charged, they'll provide hours of much appreciated distraction and entertainment.
4. Pack your headphones. Do we really even need explain why you'll want these?! (The noise-canceling kind are our personal favorites.)
5. Bring something to do or read. As we said before, distractions will be crucial!
6. Time your restroom visits. Right before you get on the plane is a must, as well as shortly before you land. It could be your last chance for quite awhile. Also, if you are stuck on the tarmac and the crew has allowed movement about the cabin, go before things get too gross in there! After that, curtail liquids and cross your legs.
7. Print out the following and have it in your carryon: the airline's tarmac delay policy, its missed connection policy, its reservation number in case you miss a connection and need to re-book and finally, its Rule 240 policy.
Okay, now you're prepared, don't you feel better?! (Anyone with their own tips for coping is welcome to add their "two-cents" in the comments section below)