On April 29, the Transportation Department's controversial rule setting harsh penalties for U.S. airlines that delay domestic flights on the ground for more than three hours took effect. The rule requires airlines to let passengers off a plane grounded on the tarmac after three hours except for reasons of safety or security, or if air traffic controllers determine that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. Airlines must also provide passengers adequate food and drinking water within two hours of delaying a flight, maintain working lavatories, and provide medical attention if necessary.
Passengers' rights advocates have cheered the rule, which they first started pushing for in 1999 and redoubled their efforts to secure after incidents in 2006 and 2007 left outraged travelers stranded on grounded flights for up to 10 hours without food, water or working toilets. But the airline industry has warned that it will inconvenience flyers as carriers pre-emptively cancel more flights than they otherwise would have rather than risk being fined up to $27,500 for every passenger who cannot exit a flight stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours.
What do you think of the rule limiting tarmac delays to three hours? Is it good for airline passengers, or will it have unintended consequences that could make flying more difficult? Are there better ways to ensure that air travelers aren't subject to lengthy tarmac delays?