New Flight Delay/Deplaning Rules Complicated By Reality
The Department of Transportation has made rules that require airlines to let passengers off of an airplane that hasn't gone anywhere for three hours, but practical application of those rules may be difficult. Passenger rights groups support the rules, but given the choice of arriving late or not arriving at all, most passengers say they would rather arrive late, American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith told Statesman.com. Three hours at the gate is one thing, but after three hours on a taxiway an aircraft can either be accessed by mobile stairs or it can go back to the gate where some or all passengers could exit. Regardless, if the aircraft is in the queue, it would lose its place and further delay passengers willing to continue with the flight, plus add cascading delays for passengers waiting for that jet, elsewhere. But... .
For passengers stuck on a flight to nowhere without fresh air or even the ability to stand up, the new rules are a blessing. The organized push for implementation of tarmac delay rules has been an issue since four flights diverted to Austin in 2006 sat occupied on the ramp for six to nine hours. The case for regulation has been championed by Kate Hanni, who has formed "the largest non-profit airline consumer organization," FlyersRights.org.
Podcast interview with Anjum Malik of FlyersRights.org