Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tarmac Delays: A Lightly Publicized Rule All Flyers Should Know

USA Today is reporting that the Department of Transportation imposed fines for tarmac delays at the tail end of 2012. COPA Airlines of Panama will pay $150,000 and Virgin America has been levied a fine of $50,000.

What's fascinating about this development is why Virgin got its slap on the wrist.

COPA's situation was the common one: it wrongfully imprisoned its passengers on the plane for 5 hours and 34 minutes, while it sat idling on the tarmac, a very obvious no-no according to DOT regulations. (Click here for a press release on those rules, which were established in the summer of 2011).

Virgin's situation was odder. Its plane only sat on the runway for a bit over 2 hours. But because it did so at the gate, it apparently had the responsibility to tell passengers they could deplane during the delay. They should have made that announcement 30 minutes after the scheduled and every 30 minutes thereafter.

I've been watching this issue carefully and am chagrined to admit that I didn't know about the "at the gate" rule. It certainly makes sense, and I, for one, will be watching to see what airlines do when I'm in a delay situation. I hope you all will do the same, dear readers.

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