By Kate Hanni, Executive Director, FlyersRights.org
Since 1999 airlines have made “voluntary commitments” to fix this tarmac-delay issue. But they have not. Even with intense media pressure and broad public support, nothing has changed. In fact, it has gotten worse. Enough is enough. We need to have a piece of smart legislation that regulates the health and safety of airline passengers by meeting their basic needs for potable water, food, hygienic toilets, temperature control and, most of all, the option to deplane after three hours on the tarmac. Most folks think it should be shorter.
The legislation before Congress contains these basic minimum standards and requires that passengers who buy a ticket with the promise of arriving at a certain time be given advance notification if that particular flight is chronically delayed or canceled. Once inside an aircraft, airline passengers have fewer rights than a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention. Does that seem fair?
NO: Legislation would cause more trouble
By James C. May, President and CEO, Air Transport Association
Proposed tarmac-delay legislation will have unintended consequences, delaying many more travelers than it benefits. U.S. Department of Transportation data show that long tarmac delays are rare and are on the decline. A return-to-the-gate mandate will cause more harm than good. A flight waiting to take off cannot always return to the terminal. If forced to return, delayed flights will saturate terminal gates; deplaning passengers from a delayed flight will create further delays; flights will lose their place in the takeoff queue; crews will “time out” and flights will cancel, affecting other service down the line; and re-accommodation of passengers off of near-full flights cannot be assured.
Most simply put — prolonging a delay or canceling a flight will not benefit customers. The best policy is flexibility, allowing pilots, in consultation with Federal Aviation Administration and airport operations officials, to decide whether to return to the gate.
Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, recently likened people with pre-existing medical conditions to wrecked cars and appeared to suggest that the sick are at fault for their illnesses just as drivers are at fault for their accidents.
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