I’ve been stuck in a plane for an hour or longer, waiting for takeoff, and it wasn’t any fun. The fact that airlines have the legal power to keep you on that plane, on the runway, within sight of the terminal, for four, five six or nine hours if it suits their needs is just ridiculous. If you complain too loudly, they have you arrested.
That has to change, but it seems unlikely anytime soon.
From a press release from FlyersRights.org:
“Legislation scheduled to come before the House of Representatives this week would let commercial airlines themselves decide how long to force passengers to remain in their aircraft on the tarmac, according to Kate Hanni, Executive Director of FlyersRights.org, America’s largest consumer organization representing airline passengers.
“The Federal Aviation Administration bill is cleared for takeoff, but passengers have been left at the gate,” charged Hanni, who is concerned that “the bill gives the airlines the legal authority to keep us stranded on the tarmac for as long as they want.”
“Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-sponsored legislation to impose a 3-hour limit on tarmac delays when they were in Congress, but House leaders didn’t get the memo. Their bill does force airlines to at least have adequate food and water on board should a tarmac stranding occur, but that’s small comfort when you’re sitting in an economy-class seat for 7, 8, or even 9 hours — and that’s exactly what this legislation lets the airlines do.”
Hanni, who founded FlyersRights.org after she herself was stranded on an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Dallas in 2006, said “there is nothing so frustrating as to be held hostage inside a locked tube for over 9 hours on the ground in an economy seat.”
“The least Congress should do is to mandate a ‘bright line standard’ requiring airlines to allow passengers off the aircraft and back into the relative comfort of the terminal after 3 hours.”
Amen, sister, amen. As the release points out, the Canadian Parliament is considering a law imposing a one-hour maximum wait. In response, “four leading Canadian commercial airlines have voluntarily agreed to self-impose a 90-minute limit, Hanni said.”
So a three-hour limit hardly seems extreme.