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Continental May Cancel Flights to Avoid “Tarmac Delay” Fines

March 9, 2010 | Posted in: Airline News,Delays,DOT

Continental cancel flights tarmac delays

This is interesting: a little earlier today, I told you that JetBlue and Delta were asking for an exemption to the new “no delays longer than 3-hours” rule that’s due to go into effect next month.

As it stands, the rule says violators will be fined $27,500 ā€“ and that’s per passenger.

Continental, however, is taking a different approach – but CEO Jeff Smisek says his airline won’t be risking those fines, either:

“Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to cancel the flight.” ā€“ Continental’s Jeff Smisek, 3-9-10

The Department of Transportation’sĀ response?

“Carriers have it within their power to schedule their flights more realistically, to have spare aircraft and crews available to avoid cancellations.” ā€“ DOT’s Bill Mosely, 3-9-10

Oh, it’s on – it is on.

9 Responses to “Continental May Cancel Flights to Avoid “Tarmac Delay” Fines”

  1. William Beem says:

    Help me out here. Are there regulations that make it more desirable to cancel a flight rather than delay boarding in order to reduce passenger time on the tarmac?

    If not, then can you explain how an idiot becomes a CEO?

    I understand that the airline wants to avoid the fine. The fines are there to change behavior. Rather than think about it, it seems the airlines just want to make rash decisions that aren’t in the best interest of their customers. You know, the people who PAY THEM (or not).

  2. Robert C. says:

    My reply to the CEO would be, then if you cancel any flights to avoid the fines, all customers would receive $5,000.00 for the inconvenience.

  3. Rick Seaney says:


    If I understand this correctly (and please see the linked article), I believe the CEO worries that if passengers are allowed off a plane, it could lose its place in line for take-off, and the delays for other flights could cascade into a sort of domino effect – and just create more and more delays (and potentially more and more fines for the airline).

    Now, could this happen? I don’t know. The DOT doesn’t seem to think so.


  4. Rick Seaney says:


    Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to fly. But I’ve been wrong before…

    Thanks for writing,

  5. rainy says:

    If airlines ‘cancel’ a flight vs ‘postpone’ a flight, don’t they have to pay expenses, ie hotel, meals & transfers? & book passengers on other flights, even with other airlines???

  6. Steve says:

    Of course they’ll have to pay hotels/meals, but i guarantee you the cost would be much less than the alternative $27500 per person.

  7. cancel this says:

    Recession really affected the airlines. The authorities must support them.

  8. Jas says:

    The rule was to limit the amount of time a plane sit on the tarmac for more than 3 hours. In fact, a majority of flights won’t even experience any effects from the rules since most flights operate ontime or close to on time and often time delays are around 2 hours or less. Where this rules will come into play is when there is a storm moving in or an airport shut down a runway for some reason or other various reason.

    The rule is simply if a plane is on the tarmac for more than 3 hours, airlines must allow any guests who wish to deplane get off the aircraft. Often time, that mean going back to the gate, waiting for a gate to open, pull into a gate, let the guest off. If the passenger that is getting off have a bag in the belly, than you have to sort through all the luggage to find that one or two bag. By the time they get ready to push back, they lose their slot to take off and have to go back to the end of the line. While that plane is at the gate letting who ever want to get off get off, you have another plane that just landed that would be delay getting into the gate because now that gate space is gone which will delay that flight and dominos down the system and screw everything up. You can’t just pull stairs up to a plane on the tarmac or a taxi way to let guests off unless its a emergency. Even at that point, the plane would have to taxi to a hardstand and wait for the equipment. There are a ton of factor that comes into play and most every day flyer don’t even see it. It just make more sense at that point to just cancel the flight. Why do all that and waste all that fuel when you can just cancel the flight right from the start.

    By the way, the rule goes into effect April 29, 2010.

  9. Rick Seaney says:


    I understand your point, and appreciate you making it so clear for everyone what all is involved. Who knows? Most, maybe all passengers would agree to continue waiting on the plane, if they simply KNOW they can get off if they really want to. We shall see, come April 29…

    Thank you for writing,

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