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DOT: Planes Must Unload Passengers After 3 Hours on Tarmac

December 21, 2009 | Posted in: Airline News,Delays,DOT,Passengers

DOT planes 3 hours tarmac

Breaking consumer airline news: U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood puts a 3-hour limit for aircraft sitting on the tarmac before passengers must be allowed to deplane.

Now there are some exceptions — this is from the DOT’s press release:

“The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.”

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.

“Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly.” Secretary Raymond LaHood, 12-21-09

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” — so keep reading.

The new rule also includes the following:

Prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those who do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices;

Requires airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations, respond in a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints and provide information to consumers on where to file complaints;

Requires airlines to display on their website flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate;

Requires airlines to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and

Prohibits airlines from retroactively applying material changes to their contracts of carriage that could have a negative impact on consumers who already have purchased tickets.

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