Regulating Tarmac Delays

Tracy Stewart, September 25, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I am terrified of being stuck on an airplane for eight hours overnight, which happened to passengers on a flight recently. It's the main reason why I refuse to fly. What is the government doing to make this illegal? Some kind of regulation would get me back in the air and I am sure I am not alone having these feelings.

    A. Both houses of the US Congress are considering legislation mandating that passengers have the option of deplaning should a plane get stuck on a taxiway or tarmac for more than 3 hours during departure or upon arrival. The airline industry strongly feels that this would lead to more delays, while proponents believe that the legislation would finally force a solution to the root causes behind these confinements. The bills are by no means assured of passage, although they have support from key members of Congress, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D- Calif.). In order for deplaning to be practical, airports must play a part in offering the necessary infrastructure, such as specialized buses that can rendezvous with airplanes on taxiways (if there are no gates available, passengers obviously can't just jump off the plane and walk across active taxiways to the terminal). Most airports lack these buses, although some, such as Dallas Ft. Worth, are adding them, and working with the TSA, airport concessions, and other stakeholders to accommodate deplaned passengers in emergency situations.