Fast Lane readers may recall the nightmare suffered last summer by 47 people trapped aboard a crowded commuter jet with faulty lavatories for seven hours. All night long, they were just a stone's throw from the comfort and services of Minnesota's Rochester International Airport.
Well, there should be no doubt that airline passengers deserve to be treated fairly, and the rules that go into effect tomorrow are a good step toward ensuring that fair treatment.
Under the new rule, U.S. airlines operating domestic flights must allow passengers to deplane after a tarmac delay of three hours. The only exceptions allowed are for safety or security, or if air traffic control advises the pilot otherwise.
Carriers are also required to provide adequate food and drinking
water within two hours of being delayed on
the tarmac; they must also maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary,
provide medical attention.
These provisions are just plain common sense. Airlines need to treat their customers like human beings.
There are other protections in the new rules, like prohibiting airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights. After all, if you schedule a flight every day at the same time, and that flight is delayed nine times out of ten, aren't you--in all practicality--telling your customers something that is not true?
I encourage you to read more about the other provisions. I think you'll find some overdue sensibility.
I want to thank the folks at DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection office for their help in formulating this rule, for their vigilant enforcement of our existing rules, and for the enforcement effort I know they will bring to these new rules.
I am proud to work side-by-side with people who know that protecting passenger rights is the right thing to do.