The Airlines Have Been Issued A Wake Up Call

The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued precedent setting fines which send the airlines a stern message: The DOT will no longer tolerate airlines allowing unusually long tarmac delays where passengers are not given the option of deplaning. While everyone is looking for cheap travel, great prices dont matter when travelers with cheap airplane tickets end up being held against their will on planes for extended and unknown period of times.

An August tarmac delay on a runway in Rochester, MN resulted in 47 travelers being left on their plane almost six hours. DOT investigated the incident and decided to fine the carriers involved (Continental Airlines, Mesaba Airlines and ExpressJet) a total of $175,000.

While the DOT has yet to define when a tarmac delay becomes unreasonable, it stated that Continental and ExpressJet were fined because ExpressJet, which operated the flight for Continental, did not follow Continentals expressed customer service commitment which requires some action, which could include deplaning if no departure is scheduled, after three hours of sitting on the tarmac.

While DOTs fines are a step in the right direction in forcing the airlines to recognize passenger rights, pressure is being placed on Congress to pass a passenger bill of rights, which would require airlines to allow travelers to deplane if they sit on the tarmac for more than three hours.

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