In 2007, there were 1,603 known instances of planes with a taxi-out time of more than three hours, and 476 from January to March of 2008. For those of us who have personally experienced this kind of delay, it can be a very frustrating situation. Until now, the data that airlines were required to report to the U.S. DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) didn’t provide a completely clear picture about the extent of this problem. Is it more widespread than the current numbers show?
The news reports have certainly highlighted the most extreme cases, but the path to finding a solution begins with learning more about the problem. Current rules do not require airlines to uniformly report data about time spent on tarmacs by canceled and diverted flights, only giving the Department information on those that actually fly to their intended destination. This data-gap could mask how serious the problem really is.
So today, during our Bloggers’ Row event, Secretary Peters announced the creation of a new rule requiring airlines to report the time spent on the runway for flights that are canceled, or diverted to another airport. This rule will shed new light on the frequency and length of these tarmac times. The expanded reports will help the Department to work with the airline industry to identify the reasons for planes—and their passengers—being left on the runway for extended times, and to find a solution to the problem.
The Department’s Research and Innovate Technology Administration (RITA), coordinates the efforts of BTS, and is dedicated to ensuring that we have the tools to address important issues like this one. I believe that this new airline rule will give us valuable insight into delays on the tarmac.
Paul R. Brubaker
Administrator, Research and Innovative Technology Administration